If you've rented an apartment or bought a house that came with window coverings in the last 20 years, chances are good that it came with the most annoying window coverings around: metal mini-blinds. They are really dust-collection sites in disguise as window coverings. They're impossible to clean, and the individual blinds are easily bent. Their one virtue is that they're cheap, and a houseful of any other kind of window coverings can be expensive, very expensive.
If you want to dump those mini-blinds, but you can't afford to replace all of them, what can you do? If you can, replace the mini-blinds in your public rooms (great room, living room, dining room) with something more attractive: drapes, shades, valences, even wide wood blinds. Try hiding the rest of your mini-blinds behind valences.
During the daytime with the blinds pulled up, you won't even know the blinds are there. At nighttime, who's going to be looking at the mini-blinds when the blinds are topped with valences in great colors and patterns?
There are a lot more options to valences than just fabric gathered on a traverse rod. Here's a contemporary look with grommets from Smith+Noble, an online window coverings vendor.
Valences with blinds are a great choice for kids' bedrooms because you can replace and update the valences when the pony phase is replaced by the pink princess phase. You can be creative with kids' valences, too. Interior designer Lisa Reeves and I came up with this valence made of University of Arizona pennants ($10) plus an inexpensive rod for one of our Habispaces' home designs. It was a big hit with the 11-year-old Arizona Wildcats fan who had just moved into a Habitat for Humanity home.
Valences that use swags complete with tassels and fancy trim are not going to look good with inexpensive metal mini-blinds, so I'd pass on formal valence styles. Formal valences also look odd without drapes. Even with drapes, it can be hard to carry off a swag look without rich fabrics and decorative accents. This one (also from Smith+Noble) looks formulaic.
Ultimately, there is nothing like the unique look of custom window coverings designed by an interior designer who has access to thousands of fabrics, including fabrics made of recycled materials and other green options. Of course, you're getting that opinion compliments of an interior designer.