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Thursday, July 30, 2020


From the beginning design stages I had an idea of how I wanted to dress the windows in my Master Bathroom makeover.  (See the final updated Reveal Part 2 here!)  I knew that I wanted a pagoda style cornice and found a few inspiration images on Pinterest, but no tutorials on how to make one.  So, I got my creative wheels spinning and figured it out!  Today I'll share with you how I made my pagoda style window cornices, it's not too difficult of a project!

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I started out really wanting the look of panels and a cornice over the large window over the tub, but with space restrictions panels weren't practical at all.  So, I opted for the cornice and a bamboo shade paired with it for privacy.  We'll be getting a new window here this Fall and I'm not sure what kind of glass I'll choose yet, but even if I choose plain, clear glass the shade will provide enough privacy.  

The window over the tub is in a recessed area, and there is about 3 feet of wall between the top of the window and the bottom of the cutout.  The main reason I chose to use a cornice was so that I could cover up a lot of that blank wall space and give the illusion that the window was taller than it is.  Here's a photo from during the reno where you can see all of that extra wall space.  If I kept a window treatment at the top of the window it would just make everything look squatty...

See the difference with the cornice template up?  I used some paper to experiment with the size and shape of the curve until I got a pattern that felt right, then I was able to use that as a template to trace onto the wood. 

I used a thin piece of plywood so it wouldn't get too heavy.  Home Depot is really good about cutting lumber to the size you request so I had them cut the basic rectangle size, and then I used a jigsaw to cut out the curved corners.  After you cut out one side, take the piece you cut off, flip it over, and use it for a pattern for the other side so each side is exactly the same.  

My photos kind of go back and forth between the larger cornice and the smaller one for the water closet, but it's the same process for any size.  For the smaller one, I just played with the size and got the proportion that I wanted for that window.

The main obstacle I had when figuring out how to make this was deciding how to make the curved edges.  They needed to be sturdy and flexible since they would help bump the cornice out from the wall, but they also needed to be stiff enough to wrap and staple fabric around them.

I ended up finding this thin, flexible dark brown backer board that's sold with the lumber in large sheets.  I had to buy a whole 4x8 piece because they didn't have anything smaller, but it was only about $8 and I have plenty left for other projects!  It's flexible but sturdy, just what I needed.

I used 1x3 pine boards cut to size for the top edge and straight sides, then cut the flexible backer board into 3" strips long enough to fit the curved edge.  Depending on what you want to use under your cornice, if anything, you might need to use a wider board to bump your cornice out from the wall more.  For example, if you plan to use panels with your cornice you might need a 4" or more board to accommodate the rod underneath for your panels.  Just keep that in mind!

I started by attaching the 1x3 boards to the top and sides with a few screws.  I cut those pieces about 1/8" short of the actual length needed to accomodate for the curved piece lining up along that edge.  If you look hard you can see along the top edge that the 1x3 doesn't go all the way to the curved edge.  The side pieces are flush along the bottom and also about 1/8" short along the top where they will meet the curved edge.  

With the straight pieces in place, it was time to fashion the curved edge.  I planned to tack it in with my brad nailer, but that backer board is super hard and didn't take the brad nails easily, so I found it better to just screw those pieces in to the pine edges.  I started by attaching one end,

and then started working my way around the curve.  I discovered since the board was so super thin, it was impossible to nail it directly into the front board, so I used some scrap pieces of square dowel rod to make a support of sorts to attach the curve.  I just nailed several of those along the curve, making sure to leave about 1/8" for the flexible piece so it would line up flush with the front of the cornice.  

Then, I went around the outside edge of those curved pieces and screwed them into those little support pieces.  You can see some of the screws along the edge here-

I found using 2-3 of those little supports along the biggest section of the curve to do the trick.

Here's the finished frame from the back and the front-

Now, it's time to make it pretty!  You'll want to soften the wood frame by adding a layer of high loft quilt batting.  On the bigger cornice, I wrapped and stapled the layer of batting on by itself and then added the fabric as a separate layer, but on the smaller cornice I found it manageable to wrap and staple the batting and fabric at the same time.  

I have a small air compressor and this staple gun (awesome, never jams!), but a manual staple gun works just fine for this project too.  Start along the straight top and bottom edges and wrap you fabric around the back of the frame, pulling it tight and stapling along the back edges.  I always start in the center and work out, only putting in a few staples at this point.  If you're working with a fabric that has a pattern, make sure it's centered on the front as your work.  This gingham fabric was a little tricky to work with because I had to constantly flip the cornice back and forth as I stapled to make sure the lines were staying straight both horizontally and vertically as I worked.  But if your fabric is solid or a random floral it should be a breeze!

After the top, bottom, and straight sides were wrapped, I did the curves.  You'll want to make sure you have plenty of fabric to work with because you're going around that 3" piece all the way to the flat back of the board to attach the staples.  You'll also need to notch the fabric along the curve so that it will lay flat across the front of the curved piece.  Just cut a little at a time, be careful not to cut too far so that it will show on the top.  If you do accidentally cut a little too far, a drop of hot glue at the end of your cut will keep the fabric from splitting any more.  More notches make it easier to work around the curve.  Pull the fabric tightly and staple to the flat back of the cornice. 

The curves can be a little tricky, just work in really small sections at a time. 

Here's the finished back.  You could totally add another piece of fabric to make it look finished, but I never do!  It doesn't show at all and even from the outside of my house you can't see it through the window.  If you could on your window you might want to finish the back a little better.

Finished front-

To finish it off, I used this pom pom trim (I dyed it to the color I wanted, will talk more about that soon!) and some ribbon.  If you choose to frame it out with a trim, you'll want something that's flexible that will lay flat around the curved edges.  I stared out with regular ribbon and you can't get it too wide or it won't lay flat.

I finished this small cornice first, and used a different trim on the larger cornice.

After finishing both of them I went back and took the ribbon off of the small cornice and used this trim instead, it stretches just enough that it worked so much better along the curves and was wider than I was able to use with the regular grosgrain ribbon.

I also started out by attaching the pom trim to the front of the cornice and then covering the pom trim edge with the ribbon, but decided I liked it better attached along the bottom from the back, then I could put the tape trim on the front wherever I wanted to without having to use the edge of the pom trim as a guideline. 

I've seen so many examples of cute trim being added to bamboo shades, I debated adding some of the navy trim to mine.  I decided that it probably wasn't thick enough and didn't want to do something different that might be wider, so I left the shade plain (for now, that might change at some point- ha!).

To attach the cornice to the wall, we use a couple of corner braces screwed to the back of the top edge.  If you can't match them up to a stud in the wall be sure to use a wall anchor for your screws.

So that's it!  I think figuring out how to assemble the curved sides and keeping my lines straight as I worked were the hardest parts of this project.  But I totally love the finished result!

Click here to see the full bathroom reveal with all of the details and sources.  Let me know if you try this project! 

And here's one final update for the bathroom, with everything TOTALLY finished and accessorized!

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Would you like to comment?

  1. You have such an inspiring can do attitude! Great work on the cornices! By the way, I’m disappointed that I passed up those woven frames at Hobby Lobby now that I’ve seen your lively butterfly art 🙁

    1. Thanks Alison! I think I saw a version of those frames recently! They might have said something different in the middle but the frame was still the same. Keep an eye out!

  2. Thank you for the tutorial! I think I’ll try this for a couple of my windows! Bathroom is so pretty, and you are incredibly talented!

    1. Thank you! I'd love to see what you come up with and hope this tutorial is helpful!

  3. You are so amazing. The cornices are perfect. One question, in putting the trim on the outside of the cornice, do you hot glue it down and then fold it to turn it, and do you iron the overlapping down to get that flat?


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