Top 5 Design Questions – The Do’s and Don’ts of Hanging Curtains
Are you completely overwhelmed when presented with the wide variety of choices in the world of curtains? Welcome to our second installment in a 5-part series where all your curtain questions will be resolved.
Curtains complete a room. They help control the light, lend privacy and warmth, affirm your style, and add texture and color. Maximize their benefits with these guidelines and get the most you can out of your window treatments!
Function comes first.
Before settling on a style, ask yourself these questions: Where do you want to hang the curtains? How much light do you want to filter in or out? Are the curtains purely decorative?
If you want treatments that provide privacy or total darkness, you need lined curtains. If you’re OK with light filtering through or if your curtains are simply decorative, unlined will work. Lining is more expensive but has other advantages: It can shield fabric from sun damage, making curtains last longer. A lining also adds heft, which protects against drafts and helps fabric fall more luxuriously.
Now we can talk style.
Texture – Distinguish the ambiance of the room. If were talking pure practicality, options include silky rayon blends and cotton sateen (often washable). For a formal space, there’s heavy silk or velvet (dry-clean only). Cotton and wool blends work with any type of décor and bring a crisp, neat feel to a room.
Color – You’ll need to decide if you want the curtains to blend with the decor or to pop. For blending, pick curtains that are the same tone as the wall but a few shades darker, or choose a non-dominant subtle color in the room (a soft shade from the rug, say). A bold color will work like an exclamation point (if you’re looking to add some wow). Also keep in mind that in a space where the sun shines through unlined curtains, the color will infuse the room. Blue can be eerie; pink, cheery.
Prints and Patterns – If you already have a dominant pattern in the room stick with solid curtains. If other elements of the room are more subdued, try a patterned print like dots or paisley.
How long should curtains be?
First things first: Consider the length and width of the fabric. Hang your drapes about 1/2 inch off the floor so they don’t collect dust bunnies. This draws the eye up, making the room feel bigger. For heavier fabrics, like linen, add another 1/4- to 1/2-inch of spacing, as these curtains will stretch over time.
Tip! Hanging curtains that extend onto the floor a few inches is a more forgiving style if you have uneven floors and give the room a relaxed look.
How wide should curtains be?
And when it comes to width, you want your curtains to look full — not like a flat sheet — when closed, so the width of the fabric should be one and a half to two times wider than the area you are covering.
Where should they be mounted in relation to the window?
Generally, hanging curtain brackets on the wall above and outside the window molding looks best; it allows fabric to fall gracefully. If you have detailed window frames you don’t want to cover, an inside mount (hanging curtains within the frame, as you would with a tension rod) can work. Below are two hanging tricks that we love for maximizing windows—you can opt for just one technique or use both on the same window.
Hang above the frame – To create the illusion of a taller window, mount the rod four to six inches above the window frame—or halfway between the frame and the ceiling molding (But within reason—don’t go more than eight inches above the frame or it might look awkward).
Hang wider than the frame – Extending the rod three to six inches beyond the frame on each side makes a window feel grander and allows extra light to stream in when the curtains are open (the fabric hangs against the wall without blocking the glass). You can also use this plan to reveal pretty molding. In this case, you may want to leave as much as 12 inches on either side. Remember to adjust your width measurements for this look.
Height: 3” below the ceiling (or from the base of the crown molding)
Pro Tip: Add 12” of additional rod to each side of the window so that your curtains are not covering more of the view than necessary
Height: 3” below the ceiling. If that’s not possible, install the rod between the upper and lower windows.
Pro Tip: If you’re using heavy fabrics, add an extra ¼”- ½” of spacing off the floor. The fabric will stretch over time.
Height: Hang a rod as high and as far as possible from the top of the arch
Pro Tip: Given the detailing on this type of window, it’s often best not to install window treatments at all.
Height: 3” below the ceiling.
Pro Tip: Find drapery hardware that has a corner bracket so that you have a single, connected rod.
What about the heading?
The top hem of a curtain can help define the overall look—casual or formal, feminine or sleek—and also play a part in functionality (allowing the panel to slide easily or not). Here’s a quick rundown of common options.
Basic Heading (with hooks)
A traditional flat heading that allows curtains to move easily.
A channel along the top holds the rod and creates a casual, gathered effect. A nice choice for curtains that will stay put, because the gathering makes it difficult to move the curtain back and forth.
There are many styles, from narrow pencil pleats to wide, flat box pleats. Because they’re structured, these panels read more formal than do other types. Pleated curtains generally operate with drapery hooks and rings.
Flat loops of fabric fasten the drape to the rod. The fabric can change the look of this type of heading from relaxed to stiff. A variation on this theme is tie-tops, with bows instead of flat loops—still casual but more feminine and romantic.
What type of rod should I use?
If your rod will be hidden from view, you can pick one based on function alone; otherwise, the rod style should relate to the overall look of the room. We’ve listed four common styles below:
An adjustable pole, often featuring ornamental end caps (finials), that attaches to the wall with brackets. Match the metal to other finishes in the room.
An adjustable U-shaped rod that screws directly into the wall. Panels wrap around the curved sides, making this a good solution for blocking out light. Also available in a double-rod style for layering.
Drapery hooks attach to pulleys inside a track. Can be installed on a wall or the ceiling. Some tracks resemble a rod with finials, concealing all moving parts inside the pole. Curtains glide effortlessly.
The cheapest and easiest, but least sturdy option because it adjusts to fit inside a window frame with no hardware. It’s meat for only lightweight panels or café curtains.
Where to look.
We have come up with a list of reliable sources ranging from low to high price ranges to get you started when choosing window treatments.
These sites have a wide variety of colors and patterns, but many of the fabrics are unlined.
Most of the curtains are lined, so they will drape better.
The possibilities are endless here with any style, color, pattern, and fabric you could dream of.
- calicocorners.com (only made to order)
- theshadestore.com (also has made to order)
- thecurtainexchange.com (also has made to order)
- smithandnoble.com (also has made to order)
We hope this post has covered all of your basic curtain and window treatment questions – now go get started!
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