How To Build a Cornice

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Estimated Time: 
half a day
Give Your Windows a Treatment with a Cornice

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There's no doubt that windows can make or break a room. If your home is blessed enough to have many big windows, consider yourself very lucky. But while the beauty of a window often lies in the light it emits and the outside view it exhibits, there is so much more that your windows can provide from the inside.

Windows can be dressed up and decorated to add feeling and character to any room of the house. Take the window in our Jane-in-training's bedroom. Brely had plantation shutters which provided some much needed privacy, but didn't give her the romantic feeling she was going for.

Since romance was the order of the day from our Jane, a little modification was in order. Since plantation shutters are a beautiful addition to any window, we didn't want to remove them altogether, we simply wanted to soften them up. The solution? A cornice!

For those who aren't familiar, a cornice is just an upholstered, box-like frame that is placed over the top-most portion of your window. We made ours deep enough so that underneath it, we hung a curtain rod and sheer curtains. This allowed the window to be both practical and romantic at the same time.

Project Steps

Step 1

First, measure the window to figure out how big your cornice should be. You probably want to make the cornice slightly bigger than the window to give it appropriate proportions.

Step 2

We made our cornice out of plywood, but you can make yours out of whatever sturdy material you choose. We've even heard of people using sturdy thick Styrofoam that's lightweight and easy to work with.

Once we had our measurements we then marked the wood using a straightedge (you can also use a level or square). Remember, measure twice, cut once.

Step 3

 

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Now we were ready to cut the plywood to size. Place the wood on a flat surface and secure it using clamps. Cut along your markings and don't forget to don that protective eyewear.

We used the excess wood for the sides of the cornice to avoid having to buy extra pieces.

Jane Tip: You should probably wear ear protection as a circular saw can be loud.

Step 4

Cut the fabric and batting to size based on the dimensions of your cut plywood. Make sure there is at least a few inches of excess (roughly six inches all the way around) so that all layers of materials overlap the plywood completely.

Step 5

 

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Upholstering the plywood is just like wrapping a present. Place the fabric (you may want to iron it first) and the batting face down on your work surface. Next, place the plywood on top of it, and wrap it up, securing each side with a single staple. Then, flip the piece over and make sure the pattern of the fabric is exactly as you like it. (It can pull in one direction or look lopsided if the fabric is patterned.) Continue to staple, pulling the fabric taut and placing a staple every 2 inches or so.

Step 6

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Once stapled, trim away any excess batting, leaving a couple of inches of fabric so that it doesn't eventually unravel.

Step 7

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Begin to assemble the cornice by attaching L brackets to the underside of your largest piece. Remember to opt for short screws so they don't push through your panel.

Step 8

Join the smaller pieces to the large piece to make the "box" of the cornice.

Step 9

For a bit of added romance, we placed curtain sheers underneath the cornice with a curtain rod. If you are doing the same, remember to add the rod before you mount the cornice, otherwise it'll be much more difficult if not impossible to access.

Step 10

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Hang the curtain rod per the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 11

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Attach L brackets to either side of the cornice so that you will be able to mount them to the wall. Depending on how heavy it is, you may want to secure it with more than two.

Because our cornice was heavy, we made sure to secure it into the wall studs. If you need to do this as well, find the studs using a stud finder. Use wall anchors as well to insure a secure attachment.

Step 12

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Enlist the help of a partner to help you position your cornice on the wall. Have one person hold it while the other marks the wall through the L brackets.

Step 13

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Mount the cornice to the wall according to the marks you've made. You will probably need to use a screwdriver, since a drill may not fit underneath the cornice.

Jane Tip: You may also want to consider using a "right angle" or "close quarters" drill. These "L" shaped drills help you get into tight spots that other drills can't.

Step 14

Add curtains to the rod you installed earlier and now you have a romantically-framed window!

Brely loved her plantation shutters but they really didn't offer the romantic flair she wanted for her bedroom. An upholstered cornice was all that was needed to soften up the sharp lines from the shutters. Gossamer curtains underneath the cornice pulled it all together and gave the window a whimsical feeling. Now Brely's romantic window looks great whether it's open or shut!

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