What is a top treatment? The basic definition is that it is a “short” treatment that can stand on its own as a beautiful accent; or can embellish an existing treatment. Top treatments can be fussy and elegant, soft and charming, or even boxy and regimented.
A cornice is a wood frame made to fit across the top of a window, and then is padded and covered with fabric. While the structure of the cornice is quite formidable, the cornice can be anywhere from casual and kitschy to elegant and ornate. A soft cornice is one in which the padded fabric hangs down below the actual frame, which will allow more movement and whimsy.
Another type of cornice is called the lambrequin, which is basically a cornice with “legs” that extend down on either side of the window frame as an added design element.
Next is the swag, a top treatment that is ever-popular. As with anything wildly popular, the treatment has been over used, constructed poorly and can be found in those dreadful “window treatment in a bag” deals at your local bed and bath store. Stiff and scratchy, almost painful to look at when employed with large-scale florals and garish colors, swags have gotten a bad rap over the years.
However, even the most basic swag treatment, constructed, lined and created with the proper fabric, can be a joy to behold, with its graceful, swooping curves and symmetrical lines. Today, you will find swags in soft fabrics such as sheers and silks, and colors, tiny patterns and reversible linings. There are a variety of swag styles, and you will see them all as you page through this chapter.
A single swag should be no wider than about three feet – any more than that will make this semi-circle treatment dip proportionately too low in order to retain its shape or, it will look more like an upside down eyebrow – stretched too thin. At its longest point, swags should reach down into the window no more than 20″. Like just about any other window treatment, however, 16″ is standard.
There is a term that will come up quite often in conjunction with swags. It’s called a “tail” or “jabot.” You will commonly hear “swag & tails” – they are often hand-in-hand partners.
The tail is simple decoration, a fabric drop that will accent the beauty of the swag, usually situated on either side of the swag. Do you recall the lambrequin I described earlier? This is the soft fabric version of the legs on the lambrequin.
Sometimes pleated, sometimes gathered (depending on the type of swag, of course), it is a separate piece of material that is installed over or under a board- or pole-mounted swag and will visually balance the treatment. Most tails will taper to a point and will often be embellished with a tassel or other type of passementerie, such as beads or fringe.
The last top treatment category is valances, and like cornices, the possibilities are endless. By definition, a valance is a horizontal treatment that fits across the top of a window frame. It can be suspended from a board, much in the way a soft cornice does; or it can hang from a rod. Ranging from complex to entirely simple, the valance can be a treatment all on its own, but also will serve as a beautiful shield to hide cords, headrails and other window treatment hardware, should it be used in combination with, for example, a shade.
A triangle valance, probably the most simple of the window valances, is similar to tying a handkerchief around ones neck in a jaunty manner. Casual and so simple to make, it is a square of fabric shaped just like a handkerchief, only (obviously) much larger, that is secured to either side of the window frame. Butterfly and stagecoach valances look like they
can be lowered like a shade, because they apppear visually weighty. In both styles, they are “held up” with straps, tabs or whatever you can dream up. The butterfly valance allows the fabric to spill to each side of the straps, creating what looks like wings. The stagecoach valance cuts straight across with no spill over.
Rod pocket. Yes, here’s the old reliable resurfacing in yet another window treatment. So, the drill is the same. The rod-pocket valance is just basically a much shorter version that a curtain or drapery with one difference: it runs the entire length of the rod, versus being divided into two separate panels.
A gathered pick up valance is a beautiful treatment that actually looks a lot fussier than it is. It is merely a flat, lined, rectangle valance that has had little tucks sewn into the top, which then draws the fabric up into charming little swag-like bells. It is typically lined with a contrasting fabric because, like Mammy flashing her crinoline at Mr. Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, wherever the fabric is slightly lifted by the tucks, the contrast lining will show.
Pleated valances, such as the ever-popular box pleated valance, are a mainstay of the window treatment business. Crisply tailored or softly gathered, the symmetry of a pleated valance is a welcome addition to any environment.