An Inexpensive Window Covering Made Easy

Create an interesting window treatment out of an inexpensive wood product and save some cash for other necessary accessories.

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By Matt Fox

My co-host, Shari Hiller, and I have decorated hundreds of rooms with every window type, shape, and size you can imagine. When it comes to window treatments, Shari is an expert.

She designs, picks the fabrics, and sews the window treatments herself, and manages to make it look easy in the process. Shari and I recently redecorated a bedroom and Shari asked me to be in charge of the window treatment. I bet you're surprised. I know I was.

I soon discovered the reason -- a very limited budget. It seems that yards and yards of fabric are more expensive than wood. Shari hoped I could create an interesting window treatment out of an inexpensive wood product, saving some cash for other necessary accessories. Well, I'm always up for a challenge so I decided to give it a try.

My first thought was a cornice board. A cornice board is a three-sided box with a front cover on it. In most cases, the board is covered with batting and decorative fabric, but since budget was an issue, I decided to use a painted surface instead.

Since the cornice board was going to be painted a single color, it needed to have an interesting, eye-catching shape. I decided to mimic the shape of an antique mirror located within the bedroom, but the cornice still seemed a little blah.

Shari and I put our heads together and decided to combine the cornice board with a shelf. We found some beautiful antique oil lamps to display which added some color and interest to the shelf, but something was still missing. The addition of some silk potted plants completed the look of the shelf.

Our shelf-cornice board proved to be a very inexpensive but beautiful window treatment. Although the cornice board was built to enhance a traditional style room, it could easily be adapted to work with any style room.

If you'd like to build a shelf-cornice for your room, you'll need the following:

Materials and Tools:

1x4 pine lumber
wood glue
scrap paper
MDF (medium-density fiberboard)
palm sander or 220-grit paper
terra-cotta pots
drywall screws
latex primer
6' piano hinge
3 L-brackets


1. The first step in this project is to measure the window and decide on the placement of the cornice. It must be positioned so that it will cover all blind hardware, and still allow for movement. Add an extra two inches, plus the thickness of the 1" x 4" (which is 3/4 inch) for a total of 2-3/4 inches on each side of the measurement of the sheer rod or blinds.

2. You will begin by building a U-shaped frame. Cut one board to your predetermined length. Cut two side pieces eight inches long. Attach the sidepieces to the top panel with wood glue and nails.

3. To create the front face of the cornice, measure the outside dimension of the frame and cut out a piece of MDF (it cuts much easier than grained wood). Draw and cut a template to size for the front piece in the desired pattern. Trace it onto MDF and cut it out using a jigsaw. Soften the cut edges using a palm sander or by hand. Mount the front face to the cornice frame using wood glue.

4. To create the planter shelf, cut a 1 x 4 board to length. Determine the placement of the potted plants on the shelf. Cut holes big enough to accept pots in a 1x4 board by marking the center of each hole and using a compass to draw the diameter needed. Drill a hole on the inside of the circle near the pencil line, and then cut each out with a jigsaw.

5. Mount the planter board to the front face of the cornice by adding wood glue along the edge, and securing it in the back using drywall screws. Since our window was quite wide, we decided to add three supports to the planter board, as well.

6. Prime the frame and the cornice front, and then paint as desired. Once it has dried completely, mount the two pieces together using the piano hinge. The piano hinge makes it easier to install the cornice, and also allows the cornice front to flip up, allowing for easy blind removal and cleaning.

7. I must admit, when Shari asked me to design a window treatment, I was dubious. This window cornice was so successful, however, I won't be a bit worried if Shari calls upon me for another window treatment. Unless it involves the sewing machine, that is. Then she's on her own.

(Matt Fox and Shari Hiller alternate writing this column. They also are authors of Real Decorating for Real People and co-hosts of Room By Room.)

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