Projects: Make A Low Cost Cornice Box
Light and airy is our favorite way to decorate because it adds size to a small room, and anyway, a brighter room is generally a happier one. Having said that, we also agree that variety is the spice of life. Therefore, our window decorating suggestions include styles that are somewhat heavier looking and slightly more low key. Anyway, If you’ve always wanted to own a fancy looking set of drapes with an even fancier head trim, but couldn’t quite find a way to finance your wish then we have an idea that you might really like.
Ready-made drapes are available in good quality fabrics, in an array of interesting colors and usually are very competitively priced. It is only when we purchase the valance pieces and the larger head trim and heavier cornice rods that we begin to see the total price start to triple.
But fancier doesn’t have to be expensive. If you can drive a six-penny finish nail, handle a screwdriver and do a bit of simple hand-stitching we can show you how to make a really beautiful cornice box worth several hundred dollars for under $75. Here’s how.
In this example, we will decorate a window that is 6-feet wide and 4-feet high. Our cornice box will be 7-feet long, so that it will overlap the window (about six-inches) at both ends. The finished cornice will be about 6 1/2-inches deep and 9 1/2” tall. The depth would need to be increased if a layer of shears are added and it would be a good idea to increase the height by a few inches when decorating a taller or wider window.
Plywood offers reduced material cost, but is only practical if several cornice boxes are to be built. This is because the loss due to waste would far out weigh the added expense of using solid wood. Since we are building only one cornice box, we elected to use solid wood. The good news is that, compared to plywood, solid wood is stronger and much, much easier to work with. Also, we used clear, dry lumber to eliminate the possibility of twisting and splitting.
Materials needed include: a 10’ length of 1×6 (for the top and end pieces), an 8’ length of 1×10 for the front piece, a small container of white or yellow wood glue, two 2-inch metal L brackets (for mounting the cornice box onto the wall), a small box of 6 penny bright finish nails and 4 three-quarter-inch long #8 flat head wood screws (we like Phillips screws because they are easier to install with a screw gun). A staple gun or hammer tacker will also be required.
CONSTRUCTION TRIVIA: A piece of surfaced (sanded smooth) 1×6 lumber actually measures 3/4” thick and 5 1/2” wide. In rough-cut condition a 1×6 is slightly less than 1” thick and approximately 6” wide. When wood is milled from a rough to a smooth surface it loses about 1/4” from each of its four sides. Ergot thickness and width are each reduced by approximately 1/2”. So, now you know why a surfaced 1×6 measures 3/4” by 5 1/2”.
If you are like most folks you probably don’t have an exotic workshop, so we thought it would be best to suggest that you have the lumber company pre-cut the wood for you. The 10’ 1×6 should be cut into 3 pieces: one 7-footer and two much shorter pieces — 8 3/4” long. The 8’ 1×10 should be cut to 7’
MORE CONSTRUCTION TRIVIA: Dimensional lumber (solid wood) is sold in increments of 2’. Normally, when you purchase a 7-foot length of wood you are charged for 8’. So, if the store is cutting the wood for you don’t forget to ask for the scrap — chances are you paid for it.
Use the glue and the nails to attach the narrow edge of the 1X6 to the face of the 1×10 to create an ‘L’ shape. Then, fill in the ends with the 8 3/4” lengths of 1×6. You can’t goof because the ends will only go in one way. All edges should align as closely as possible, but since the next step is to cover with fabric perfection is not necessary.
Start by using spray glue to attach a thin layer of cloth of foam padding to all outside surfaces of the cornice. Then, an extra section of drapery material can be used to cover the entire box. NOTE: The drapery may have to be cut and reassembled to fit the cornice depending on the drapery pattern — we chose a material with NO pattern. Attach the long side of the drape to the inside lower face of the cornice. Next, stretch the material over the face and top and back into the underside of the top. Next, pull the sides around the face and to the inside face of the ends. Finally, fold the excess material from the ends over the top and under the bottom to the inside — as if you were making up the foot of a bed sheet.
Seam binding can be glued to the entire inside of the cornice box to hide a multitude of errors.
Mount the 2” metal brackets onto the wall using the 4 screws. The brackets should be installed so that the top of the cornice rests about 4- or 5-inches above the window opening — you get to decide what looks best here. Hold the bracket about a foot in from either end.
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