How to Hang Curtains: Best Practices for Design & Installation
Drapery can transform an entire room, adding color and texture to your space to give a finalized, polished look. If not hung in the best way, curtains can lose their impact on the room. How to hang curtains the right way is thankfully simple, especially when you know interior design tricks that help you get the most out of your drapery.
To hang curtains the right way, there are two main things to consider:
- The design best practices for how to hang curtains so they look their absolute best when hung
- The installation steps for how to hang curtains so you know where to place the curtain rod and brackets
First, learn the design best practices for hanging drapery so you can decide how high, how full, and how long your drapes are. Then, dive into an installation overview of how to hang window curtains so you can decide whether you feel confident DIY-ing the job or would prefer a professional installation.
How to Hang Window Curtains: Design Best Practices
When considering how to hang window curtains, interior designers use a few key best practices to bring out the best of the drapery and truly transform a room.
These key best practices include:
- How high to hang your curtains
- The fullness and stack of your curtains
- The length of your curtains
How High to Hang Your Curtains
When it comes to how high to hang your curtains, a good rule of thumb is to hang them halfway between the top of the window and ceiling, plus an inch or two. The additional inch or two avoids dissecting the space at the halfway point, which can make your room feel a bit squat. Hanging your curtains higher than the window frame makes the window and the room look taller, creating an illusion of space. Hanging your curtains too close to the window frame can make your room feel short and cluttered.
However, there are some exceptions to hanging your curtains about halfway between your window and ceiling. For the following situations, consider a slightly different approach:
- For cathedral ceilings, stick to hanging your curtains about 8 to 10 inches above the window frame to help the windows feel taller, without going excessively high.
- For shorter ceilings where there’s about 6 inches or less between the window trim and ceiling, hang your curtains right at the ceiling or, better yet, ceiling-mount them. This will give you more of a lofty, sophisticated look even with shorter ceilings.
- For ceilings with crown molding, it’s usually best to hang the curtains right below the crown molding to avoid an unattractive gap between the ornate molding and your decorative drapery.
Consider the Fullness & Stack of Your Curtains
Fullness and stack both refer to the thickness and width of your drapery, but in two different ways:
- The fullness of your curtains refers to how lush and full they look when drawn closed to cover the window.
- The stack refers to the amount space the drapery takes up when fully drawn open to expose the window.
The fullness and stack both play a role in figuring your drapery width. Since drapery will typically extend beyond the window, the perfect width measurement involves both the curtain panels and the hardware to hang them on.
Typically, a good way to figure out the width of your curtains is to divide the window width by two and then add that number to the total width. For example, if you have a 100-inch window, dividing it by two gives you 50. So, when adding that to 100, the total width you want to take into account is 150 inches. While this gives you a good estimate, drapery materials and drapery pleat styles will give you a different fullness and stack, so you may need to adjust that number based your choices.
How Far Should Curtain Rods Extend Past the Window?
How wide your curtain rods are will depend on the width you decide on for your drapery. Typically, adding at least 12 inches on each side of your window frame will ensure the drapery can be pulled fully off the window glass for a clean, unhindered view. Plus, a longer rod with drapes hung wide also helps make the window look wider.
Decide on Length: Float, Break or Puddle
The third part for how to hang curtains the right way has to do with length. The length of your curtains will depend on where you’re installing the rod and how close to the floor you’ll want your drapes to extend.
There are three ways your curtains can hang:
Floating curtains means that they hover just off the floor. This option is ideal if you’re going to be opening and closing your drapery frequently. To get the right float, your drapes should be between 1-inch and ½-inch off the floor. However, keep in mind that some natural materials like wool or linen stretch overtime with gravity. To keep these materials at the right length is to have them professionally hemmed every year or so.
Curtain length with a break means that the fabric is long enough to kiss the floor, with about 1 to 2 inches of excess fabric. This is an ideal option for uneven floors you’re trying to disguise, or if you want an elegant, elongated look for your drapery. A break is also a better choice for more stationary, decorative drapes that won’t often be opened or closed.
To hang curtains with a puddle, allow 3 to 6 inches of extra fabric in your curtain’s length so there’s an excess of fabric puddling on the floor. This is a very elegant, luxurious look, and another good option for disguising uneven floors. However, the extra fabric will more easily collect dust and dirt, so it’s best applied to decorative drapes that won’t often be opened or closed.
Common Mistakes in Hanging Curtains
Common mistakes when hanging curtains include:
- Hanging your curtains too close to the window frame, which will inevitably make your window and room look short and squat.
- Choosing a length that’s too short: Short drapes that are too far from the floor will give you an informal, slipshod aesthetic, and will also make your window and room appear shorter.
- Choosing curtain rods that are too short: Without enough space beyond the window frame on either side, your drapes will cover more of the window, even when fully open and stacked, making your window look smaller and blocking more of your view.
Install Best Practices: How to Hang Window Curtains
With design best practices for how to hang window curtains in your toolkit, you’re ready to learn installation tips. Installation best practices for how to hang curtains are very similar between different types of drapery hardware (either a track system or rod and rings) with the main difference being how many brackets you’ll need for each type.
The two main types of drapery hardware include:
A track system is a modern option for how to hang curtains. It operates with hooks that attach your drapery to a track allowing your curtains to easily glide back and forth as you open and close them.
Rod & Ring System
A rod and ring system consists of a curtain rod with rings that attach your curtains to the rod, allowing you to move your drapes back and forth.
To install your curtain rods, you should always consult the right installation instructions, but for a simple overview, follow these tips:
Step 1: Determine How High & How Wide to Hang Curtains
Using the best practices you learned above, determine how high your curtains will hang and how wide you’ll want the rod to extend on each side of your window, and mark each end with a pencil.
Step 2: Mark Curtain Rod Bracket Placement
Once you know the total width of your curtain rod, you can determine how many brackets you’ll need. The number of brackets will depend on the type of drapery hardware you’re using (track system vs rod and rings) as well as the total length of your curtain rod. Whether you mount your curtain rod from the wall or ceiling will also play a small role in the number of brackets you’ll need.
For a single track system mounted to the wall or ceiling, you’ll need a bracket about every 2 to 3 feet depending on the width of you track system and the shape of it (whether it goes around a corner, bends, or is straight).
For a single rod and rings system mounted to the wall or ceiling, you’ll need a bracket about every 3 to 4 feet depending on the width of your rod.
However, always be sure to refer to your chosen drapery hardware’s installation guide to determine the exact amount of brackets you need for your project.
Step 3: Install Your Hardware & Drapery
After you’ve determined the number of brackets you need and where they fall along the length of your curtain rod, you’re ready to install them. A drill and basic Phillips screwdriver are all you need to install the brackets, but be sure to also have a level on hand to ensure the rod sits evenly across the brackets.
Once the brackets and rod or track system is installed, you can hang your drapery. How to hang curtains will vary depending on the type of hardware you’ve chosen and the drapery style. For a track system, you’ll either be able to snap or hook your curtains into the track system. For rod and rings, you simply hang your curtains from the rings. Grommet and Rod Pocket Drapery are the only types that will be installed right onto the rod itself, without the use of separate hooks or rings.
Ensure the Right Measurement & Installation
With the design savvy and technical knowledge you need, you’re ready to start the process of measuring and installation. If you have any concerns about how to hang curtains and would prefer professional help, we’re here for you. Schedule a free measurement today with our expert professionals, to get your project off on the right foot.