I would like to learn to design and install custom cornice box valances. I just received a staggering quote from a store in my area. I thought my husband might be able to build them. I know of someone who can upholster them for me. Would you be able to suggest how I could find a supplier who could custom build the boxes inexpensively? (Question received via e-mail to DWCdesignet.) Answer:
Custom cornice boxes are a lovely addition to any window treatment. As you have mentioned, the per-square-foot charge seems high, at first; however, when you consider the custom shaping and cutting of a pattern for the box, the upholstery work involved and installation, the price is a lot less. To help you decide for or against outsourcing or making these cornices yourself, use these guidelines:
•Be sure to obtain two or three quotes. If you feel the pricing is too high from the first quote, get additional prices to compare.
•Consider quality in workmanship. Ask to see samples of the supplier's work. Even though each supplier's work will vary, it may be worth a few added dollars to get the look you want in a treatment that will retain its looks and satisfy your expectations.
•Service. Customer service is extremely important, not only to assure you that your treatment is exactly what you want, but that the supplier is in touch with you should there be a delay in the installation, or a question regarding your preference. You will feel better about paying more if you are more confident in the outcome.
•Warranty for the work. If you find someone to build unfinished boxes for you, be sure they will stand behind their work if it does not fit properly. Businesses sometimes frown upon selling an incomplete window treatment design. You also may check with a carpenter or wood worker for this service.
Before making your own cornice boxes, consider the following:
•Measure for a proper fit. A poor measurement will create problems from the start and leave you with an unappealing treatment.
•Follow an exact pattern. If you are building your own boxes, it is vital you are accurate in construction. You can find a pattern and instructions in how-to books of the trade that will guide you step-by-step.
•Consider the undertreatment. If rods will be installed underneath the cornice box, allow plenty of clearance for their installation. For a single rod, allow six inches for the return (the measurement from the front of the cornice box that turns back toward the wall), for a double rod, allow eight inches.
•Give special attention to cornice boxes mounted from wall to wall on recessed windows or bays. Because of the tightness of the area, you must get an exact measurement for the face of the treatment. Allow one-inch for the return.
•Select an appropriate fabric. Some fabrics are better than others. Fabrics that are non-directional and solids can be railroaded (turned sideways) to eliminate seams on the board. Welting should be made of the same type of fabric or it may create an unpleasant contrast.
•Choose a design that suits your customer's style and room design. Cornice box valances vary in shape, design and size. Some styles include double banded, shirred bottom, scalloped bottom, fabric inserts, pleats, single or double welting, shirred front, zigzag, straight bottom, custom cut-out and arched.
When you are outsourcing through a supplier, be sure to give clear, concise information on the type of design you want. Ask for a sketch or photograph example of the design. When you are designing your own cornice box, if you measure accurately, apply quality workmanship and select appropriate fabrics, your treatment will look like a million dollars.
Editor's Note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson which will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings, as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business. If you have a question you would like Anderson to address, please send it to: DesignSolutions@DWCdesigNET.com
Sharon L. Anderson, Associate Member, Interior Design Educator's Council (IDEC), has more than 14 years experience as a commercial and residential design professional. She has taught numerous courses at colleges and universities throughout Southern California and is a published author and frequent public speaker.