How to Hang Curtains

Simple Tips to Make Your Room Look Bigger and Brighter

Master Bedroom with Blue and Neutral Color Palette and Luxury Window Treatments
Using side 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)

Feel that sun shining in your windows brighter and brighter each day? With summer on the way and daylight lasting well into the evenings now, the thought of adding the right window treatments may be top of mind. But quality window treatments don’t always have to mean totally custom blinds or shades. You can – and should – consider adding curtains. Together with blinds or shades, they 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. Hanging curtains, while apparently simple, does take some know-how. The installation is simple enough (anyone with a basic knowledge of power tools and a level can figure it out), but 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. Instead, read on. We’ve got all the pro tips you need to get it right the first time. 

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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 your window frame. Visually, it shortens the height of your ceiling and it will make your room feel a bit, well, sad. The solution is to first measure the width of your window, then select a rod that is at least a foot longer than that measurement. Then, to hang it, go about 8-12 inches above your window frame. If your ceiling isn’t quite that high, you’ll want to hang your curtain rod about ⅓ or halfway between your window frame and ceiling. Of course, there are rare instances where it isn’t possible to go even as high as this (in a half story space or for a bay window), but whenever possible, try to make it happen. 

In addition to this, though, you want to ensure you’re placing your curtain rods about 6 or more inches past your window frame on either side. The goal is to have your curtains frame your window so that when they are open, you still get full light and visibility. 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. 

Bright and airy home office with stylish curtains
In 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)
A quick guide for hanging curtains the right way
The 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.

RELATED: Get Fast and Affordable Interior Design Advice

Curtain Length

Now, before you fall in love with any curtain pattern or design, you need to make sure you’re buying the right size. Curtains typically come in a range of sizes, from cafe (think half kitchen window coverings) all the way to 96” long and beyond. At a minimum, your curtains should just barely float above the ground (ideally by less than an inch). However, you can purchase longer sizes for either a floor-brushing length or a “puddle” length. Any of these three can look beautiful. Visually, you’ll just want to opt for the look you’re most interested in. 

However, measuring the height of your window frame isn’t enough. You need to measure all the way up to where your curtain rod will be placed to ensure your curtains are the proper length. An 84” panel may seem like a good fit, but once you hang it up, you may find that there is a good half foot gap at the bottom, making your space feel stunted and unfinished.

Floral curtains for blue and white formal dining room
In this dining room, roman shades offer the family privacy during meals while beautiful blue floral curtains frame the front arched window. 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)

Number of Panels

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” rule, 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 window size – for a nice, full look overall.

Girls bedroom with blue and purple accents and blue window treatments
In 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 panels nailed down, you’ll want to figure out exactly which type of curtains you need for each space. Sheer, light-filtering, and blackout curtains are the typical categories you’ll find, and each one offers different benefits. 

For sheer curtains, you definitely don’t get 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.

Prioritizing Functionality

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 basement
A light-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)

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 guide, we have no doubt your windows will be ultra stylish and functional, fit perfectly to your family’s needs.

By Megan Johansson, Contributor to Carla Bast Design

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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