Hand-Painted Tile Window Valance

My first instinct was to cut it off with a jigsaw.

tile valance cuJust look at the second picture and you’ll know what I’m talking about. This typical window treatment may have been popular in 50’s & ’60’s home decor but it’s "best before" date expired decades ago.

I knew it had to go but what should I do instead? I needed inspiration.

I found it – hanging on a nail in the basement.

Several years ago my in-laws brought a couple of dozen hand-painted tiles back from Mexico for me to use in a woodworking project that never got off the drawing board. '60's era valance

They were in a dusty bag hanging from a joist in my basement shop. There were four styles based on common colours and a few tiles of each style. Perfect!

I poked around the shop and found some bits & pieces of MDF which led me to the final design. I did a rough layout using a board to work out how many tiles I’d need and how much space was left for the frame and other components. Rather than cut off the existing valance I decided it would be less work & mess to just hide the ugly part with the new assembly.


The frame is 1" wide MDF ripped to a bit less than 1/2" thick. The backing for the tiles is 1/4" MDF "craft board".  I measured the width of the tile layout allowing about 1/8" at the top and bottom and between tiles. I added 2" for the frame width and height to get the size for the backing panel. I cut the mitred frame to the same size and nailed it onto the panel from the back.

I planned to paint the completed assembly before mounting the tiles.

PilastersValance components

I was going to use plain blocks on each end until I found a scrap of window casing left over from a recent project that had a rounded bead which added a bit of elegance to the look. Each piece only needed to be  2 1/2" wide so I ripped it down to size and cut them to match the overall height of the tile frame.

Cap & Base

I wanted to keep this as simple as possible and match the look of the kitchen so I decided to simply round the corners of the cap and base pieces. I cut them about 1/2" longer than the frame and pilasters allowing 1/4" overhang on each end. Since I was hiding the existing valance – cut from 1/2" plywood – I needed the base to be deep enough to cover the bottom edge of the plywood. Notches cut at each end allow it to slip into the space between the cabinets under the existing valance.

Clamped for drillingThe cap piece is just slightly wider and mounted flush to the back of the panel and pilasters.

The cap & pilasters were attached to the frame using glue, nails and screws. I used screws at the pilasters to make sure there was a reliable fastener to hold the weight of the tiles. I placed this assembly on a scrap of 1/2" plywood to get the proper recess depth for the base piece and attached it with nails and screws as I did with the cap.


Pre-drill for installation

Before painting the valance and adding the tiles I clamped it into position, drilled the holes and drove in the screws. I figured this would be a lot easier to do before adding the extra weight of the tiles and avoid the possibility of cracking a tile and grout with the clamps. I then took it down and gave it a couple of coats of paint.

Mounting the Tiles

I left the area behind the tiles unpainted for maximum adhesion and gave the back each tile a generous bead of panel adhesive before placing it in position. After the adhesive had set I used regular tile grout to fill in the gaps around the tiles. Ceramic Tile window valance

Once everything was dry I simply screwed it back in place. 

These hand-painted tiles were just the right accent for our kitchen valance. With a little imagination and a few tiles you can add character to wall shelves or a coat rack, a bathroom vanity, kid’s furniture or just about anything you could think of.

There are plenty of books available for anyone who’s inspired to make or paint their own tiles.

Let your imagination be your guide.


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