A balloon valance is a type of window treatment that typically covers the top 12-15 inches (31-38 cm) of the window. Sometimes valances are hung alone, but often they are coupled with drapes or window shades. When choosing valances, you should take into consideration the overall room décor and whether the valance will be the only window treatment or if it will be in used in combination with other coverings. Price will be another factor in making your choice, so you will need to determine how much you can afford to spend. With a budget and décor in mind, you can then decide whether you want to purchase valances ready made or if you can afford to have them customized.
The most distinctive difference between balloon valances and other types of valances is the way they pouf. Instead of having a regular hemline along the bottom edge, balloon valances are folded over to the back at the bottom, then the edge is gathered back into the top of the fabric. This creates a somewhat long open sleeve that is gathered onto a drapery rod. Valances with a great deal of pouf are generally much more formal than flatter styles, so that should be a factor when matching a balloon valance to your room décor.
Most of the time, a balloon valance is gathered horizontally at the top of the rod, however, some balloon valances also have vertical gathers that typically repeat about every 12 inches (31 cm) across the width of the piece. This type of balloon valance is probably the most formal, and because of the great amount of detail, they often work best hung alone or with shades. Hung with other drapes, this type of valance can create a window treatment that could be overwhelming.
The overall room décor is perhaps the most important factor in choosing a balloon valance. You will need to make sure that colors chosen are a nice contrast with other colors in the room, and if the valance is to be hung with other draperies, they should complement each other. The theme of the room décor is also important. For rooms with lots of drama, you might want to choose a balloon valance done in velvet. For a more casual look such as country chic, muslin, lace, or chintz might be a good choice.
Knowing in advance how much you can afford to spend will quickly narrow down your options when choosing balloon valances. Ready-made window treatments are usually much less expensive than those that are custom made, however, choosing custom treatments allows for many more options in terms of style, fabric, and color. If you cannot afford custom-made valances, most retailers that specialize in home décor offer several styles and colors. For even greater savings, you might want to concentrate on closeout treatments or shop some of the larger liquidation centers.