How to Hang Curtains the Right Way

Simple Tips to Make Your Room Look Bigger and Brighter

I see it all too often, the dreaded curtains hung all wrong. Too-short, too low, too skimpy, I could go on! These curtain hanging mistakes are such an easy fix if you have the know-how. So, let’s dive into it – read on for how to hang curtains the right way!

Master Bedroom with Blue and Neutral Color Palette and Luxury Window TreatmentsUsing side arm curtain rods that are mounted close to the ceiling and wider than the window frame, this bedroom feels full of texture and visual interest, and the window appears much larger than it is. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Window Treatments and the Right Room Feel

Together with blinds or shades, curtains offer a stylish point of interest and texture, and even alone they have the potential to make a room feel much larger than it actually is. But don’t go drilling in holes just yet. Whether you have a 9-foot ceiling, an 8-foot ceiling or some other ft ceilings, knowing exactly where to place your rods and which type of curtains to buy can be tricky.

Skip the return trips to the store after buying too-short or too-sheer panels. We’ve got all the pro tips for the best choice so you can hang ready-made curtains and get your total space looking like something out of Architectural Digest!

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Hanging curtains the right way - step-by-step guide

Curtain Rod Placement

While it may seem counterintuitive, you never ever want to hang your curtain rods on or right above the top of the window frame, no matter the size of windows. Visually, it shortens the height of the ceiling, and it will make your room feel a bit, well, sad.

too-short-curtains
Everything is wrong about this. The rod is too low, and the curtains at an awkward length. This does nothing for the window or the space.

Bright and airy home office with stylish curtainsIn this home office, Light filtering curtains allow plenty of daylight to enter the space and the rod is hung wide enough and high enough above the window to make the space feel large and open. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Here’s a trick that designers use to make your window and the entire space appear larger than it is.  If you hang your drapes approximately 3″ – 4″ from the ceiling your room will look taller, and your window will look larger.  Measure from the floor all the way up to 3″ – 4″ below the ceiling for your finished length. If you have crown molding, you’ll want to hang the curtain rod just below it. If you have extra tall ceilings, or the space doesn’t allow you to hang your drapes this high, you can hang the drapery rod approximately 4″ – 5″ above the window trim. Using this “how to hang curtains” method will give the illusion of height we are going for.

A quick guide for hanging curtains the right wayThe go-to rule of thumb for hanging your curtain rods is to place them high and wide. The result is a room that feels larger and more open from wall to wall. This is the same sized window; doesn’t the window on the right look so much bigger?

How to hang curtains when you have crown molding?

farmhouse-living-room-curtains
Puddled curtain panels hung just below the ceiling line and crown molding. Source

In addition to the height, though, you want to ensure you’re placing your curtain rods at least 4-6 inches or more inches past your window trim on each side. The goal is to have your curtains frame your window so that when they are open, you still get full light and visibility and still cover the sides of the window trim. Do each of these and your room will feel luxurious and spacious. If you remember the mantra “go wide and go high,” you should be right on target. 

RELATED: Get Fast and Affordable Interior Design Advice

Make sure you’re buying the right size curtains!

Length of Your Curtains

Ready-made standard height curtains come in a range of sizes, from cafe (think half kitchen window coverings that go to the window sill) all the way to 96-inch curtains and beyond.

Shopping in the curtain section you’ll find there are three readily available standard curtain lengths — 84 inches, 96 inches, and 108 inches. While most designers avoid the 84-inch curtain, they can work in spaces with lower ceilings. 

At a minimum, your curtains should just barely float above the ground. However, you can purchase long curtains for either a floor-brushing length that “kiss” the floor or a “puddle” length of about 4″ – 6″ longer. Any of these three can look beautiful.

Curtain Length Options

  • To the floor – These curtains will hang just above the floor by about half an inch.
  • Brushing the floor – Curtains will hit the floor and break at the bottom but not pool. They are typically about 1″ – 3″ longer than the length measurement to the floor.
  • Puddle on the floor – Curtains that pool at the floor is anywhere from 4″ – 12″ longer than the measurement to the floor and will generously puddle at the bottom creating an elegant romantic feel.

Floral curtains for blue and white formal dining roomIn this dining room with high ceilings and an arched window, a formal look window treatment with roman shades offers the family privacy during meals. The curtains just barely skim the floor, falling at the perfect length for the window’s height. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Width of your Curtains

How many curtain panels do I need?

Another key consideration is the number of panels you’ll need. Just like your curtain length, at a minimum you will need two panels per window (to frame it on either side). Now, one single panel may seem like all you need. But while it may cover the window at night, once it’s open during the day it tends to look bare and unbalanced. Don’t get hung up on the “two panel” thought, though, because curtains do need to be customized to each window. If you have a large front window, for instance, using only two panels will not likely be enough. Instead, it’s better to do four – or even more, depending on the width of the window – for a nice, full look overall.

Girls bedroom with blue and purple accents and blue window treatmentsIn this colorful blue and purple bedroom, blue-patterned curtain panels flank each side of the window, adding personality to the brightly-lit space. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

Type of Curtains

Once you’ve got your length and number of curtain panels nailed down, you’ll want to figure out exactly which type of curtains you need for each space. While the style is personal preference, you’ll need to select the right type of window treatment to do the job. Sheer, light-filtering, and blackout curtains are the different options you’ll find, each one offers different benefits. 

For sheer curtains, you definitely will not have privacy, since people can see inside at night if your lights are on. However, they are the most light-friendly, and during the day you will have privacy while still allowing ample light to enter the space. The next level is light-filtering, which is a more solid and opaque curtain panel than the sheer, so the privacy factor goes up quite a bit. However, while it is technically “light-filtering,” this doesn’t equate to the light potential of sheer fabrics. More likely, it means it’s not dark enough to be considered “blackout,” so it won’t make a room totally dark in those early morning hours. Blackout curtains, though, will absolutely give you both privacy and a totally dark space, allowing little to no light to enter once they’re drawn.

What kind of curtains do I need?

Sheer, light filtering, room darkening? Deciding which type of curtain to use comes down to the functionality of your space. Sheer curtains may be just fine in a living room or dining room, for instance, but you’d likely want to opt for blackout curtains in the bedrooms. Likewise, if privacy is a very important factor for you, you definitely want to go for either light-filtering or blackout panels. Another option, of course, is to layer a shade with a curtain together. This allows you to have multiple options for light control and privacy, while also adding the perfect dash of style.

Roman shades and curtains let light inside this walkout basementlight-infused basement gets an added dose of pattern thanks to the side-mounted curtain panels flanking the woven roman shades. (Interior Design by Carla Bast | Carla Bast Design)

INSTRUCTIONS – HOW TO HANG CURTAINS

Materials

  • Drapery Hardware
  • Curtain Panels

Tools

  • Drill 
  • Drill Bit
  • Laser Level (best) or Level
  • Pencil
  • Measuring Tape
  • Ladder
  • Wall Anchors
  1. Calculate Hardware & Material Needs: Use the guidelines above for sizing of the rod.
  2. Install Hardware according to the guidelines above: Measure twice, drill once. Take the time to measure, and re-measure. Have a helper hold the hardware into place and use a level to make sure the rod is level.
  3. Put up your curtains: Slide rod pocket onto rod, or use hooks and rings determined by your drapery style.

And there you have it! Hanging curtains isn’t nearly as easy as mounting a rod right on top of your windows, but it’s also not nearly as complicated as many other installations in a home – at least, if you know which rules to follow. With this how to hang curtains guide, we have no doubt your new curtains will be ultra-stylish and functional, fit perfectly to your family’s needs.

Cheers

4 Responses

  1. Such a great article! Now I want to go and tear down all my ill fitting window treatments and start again.. It is time for a refresh.

  2. Thanks for the article! What do you suggest when there are radiators? Still halfway up from frame and ceiling? Or just go 84 inches up from heater? Please advise!

    1. Hi Kris, Thank you for your question! If you are doing side panels that would fall “on” the radiator, you might want to opt for a roman shade or something shorter that is inside mounted. If the radiator is in the middle of the window and not affected by the side drapery panels, that same rules apply. I hope this helps!

  3. I need to use sheers for some privacy but want to be able to also have blackout ability for movie watching from time to time. How can I bed hang for these two layers?

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