What Is the Difference Between a Valance and a Cornice Board?

A valance is soft or fabric-based window treatment for the top of the window, while a cornice board features a hard backing material, even if wrapped in fabric.

While a valance and cornice board are practically the same as far as their purpose, the key difference between the two is that a valance is fabric, while a cornice board is solid and hard, at least at its core.

Valance Basics

A valance is a short, fabric-based treatment for the top of the window, often used to mask curtain or blind hardware that may be visible when the curtains are open.

  • The valance may be pleated, scooped or hung somewhat swag-style, attached to the curtain rod or a narrow board. 
  • A valance may be made from the same style or color as curtain panels used on the same window, or it may be completely different, pairing nicely with the curtain, shade or blinds used with it.
  • If the valance is attached to a board, some of the material dangles beneath the board so it still has a wispy, flowing look -- essentially, it looks like a highly stylized short curtain, even if its top is permanently attached to a board.

Cornice Considerations

A cornice board is sometimes used for a more formal treatment near the top of the window -- especially if the cornice is made from wood or plaster without fabric. Like a valance, a cornice dresses up the top of the window frame, hiding curtain or blind hardware. Both cornices and valances are designed to stay put and do not open or close.

  • Some cornices are covered in batting and fabric, giving them a softer look and feel.
  • The shape of a cornice isn't limited to a basic rectangle protruding from the wall -- it may be sculpted, scalloped, stepped or designed to look like an arch. 
  • A cornice shape is typically symmetrical, like a valance.
  • Pleats may be present on a cornice but are not as common as they are on valances due to the fabric being completely secured to the solid backing material.

About the Author

Kathy Adams is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who traveled the world handling numerous duties for music artists. She writes travel and budgeting tips and destination guides for USA Today, Travelocity and ForRent, among others. She enjoys exploring foreign locales and hiking off the beaten path stateside, snapping pics of wildlife and nature instead of selfies.