The Right Way to Hang Curtains | A Step By Step Guide

March 12, 2024
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You’ve ordered new curtains for your newly decorated space. Now that they’ve arrived, you’re so excited to get them hung. But how? What is the right way to hang curtains?

Do you hang them right above the window frame? On top of the window frame? How wide should you hang the rod? So many important questions!

Header Image

Knowing the right way to hang curtains can make or break the space. You can have the most beautiful curtains, but if they’re hung wrong, it draws the eye. And not in a good way.

What seems like a small part of the room, is actually quite crucial when it comes to interior design.

Window treatments not only provide privacy and control the light coming in. They also add texture and visual interest to a room. And probably the most important thing they add is height….when they’re hung right.

While it may seem really tricky to hang window coverings, it’s actually quite easy.

Very much a do-it-yourself kind of project, if you know the right steps. So, let’s dive in. First things first, we need to know the basics of the right way to hang curtains. Let’s talk about width and height.

How to Calculate the Right Measurements for Hanging Curtains

​Before we drill our first holes, we need to know how high and wide we want our curtains to hang.

Finding the Right Height

The most visually appealing spot to hang your curtains is right below the ceiling. Three to four inches below the ceiling is good.

This will give the illusion that the windows are much taller than they are. It will also make the room feel loftier and more spacious too.

Do you have high ceilings? Maybe a cathedral ceiling in your living room? A good rule of thumb is to hang the curtain rod at least 4 to 6 inches above the window trim.

If you have really low ceilings, try not to go any less than 2 inches above the window trim.

Never hang the rod on top of, or directly above the window frame. Doing so, will make the ceiling feel much lower than what it actually is.

Here’s a great example of a window with the curtain hung too low…

Curtains hung too low.

And here it is with the curtains hung high…

Curtains hung at the right height.

Can you see the difference? Which one looks better and makes the room feel more spacious and airy? A great example of how curtains can change the look of an entire room in a good way or a not so good way.

Curtains hung high and low graphic image

Finding the Right Width

Not only is the height important, the width of your curtain rod is crucial too. Your curtain panels should not block the window at all when opened fully.

A good rule of thumb is to place the curtain rod brackets 4-6 inches past the sides of the window frame.

To figure out where to place the curtain brackets, measure the width of the window and add 4-6 inches on BOTH sides.

For example, if the width of your window is 48 inches, add 8 inches (for 4 inches on both sides). This means you’ll place the brackets 56 inches away from one another.

The key to curtain placement is to follow these rules of thumb: high and wide.

Large bedroom with windows and sheer curtains for the right way to hang curtains.

Image Credit: Steve Kemp | Architect

Choosing the Right Curtains & the Right Size Curtain Rod

Now that we know where to place our curtains, in relation to the trim of our window, choosing the right curtains and rod is important too.

How many curtain panels do you need?

When the curtains are closed, the panels should extend 8-12 inches beyond each side of the window.

Of course, you should have a minimum of 2 panels per window. However, there is an exception to this rule. If your windows are very narrow, you can get away with just one panel. Especially if you have two windows flanking a statement piece.

For example, a bedroom with a bed between two narrow windows. Pull the curtain panel on the left window all the way over to the left side of your window. And the panel on the right window all the way over to the right side of the window.

This will create a symmetrical design, which is always pleasing to the eye.

Curtains flanking both sides of a window for the right way to hang curtains.

If your windows are standard or large, you’ll want to hang 2 or more panels. The number of panels is dependent on the width of the window.

It’s most aesthetically pleasing when curtains look full not only when open, but also closed.

The best way to achieve this look is to ensure that combined, the panels equal double the width of the window.

For example, if your window is 48 inches wide, you’ll want the width of your panels to equal 96 inches.

Keep in mind, the wider the window, the longer the curtain rod you’ll need. For extra support, it’s a good idea to include center support brackets.

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Sitting area with large picture windows for the right way to hang curtains.

Design Credit: @puresaltinteriors  Image Credit: @vlentine

What Length Should the Curtain Panels Be?

Curtain panels come in several lengths. Standard sizes include: 84; 96 and 108″. Most interior designers tend to stick with 96 and 108 inches or more. Staying away from 84 inches. Unless the ceiling is so low, they have no other choice.

When choosing the length of curtains, you have 3 looks to choose from:

  • Kiss: Curtains are just long enough to gently touch the floor. Creates a clean, elegant look where the curtains meet the floor without bunching up or being too short. A polished and tailored look.
  • Puddle: Extra long and spilling onto the floor. Creates a soft, gathered look that resembles a puddle. This style is often used for a luxurious, romantic, or dramatic effect in a room’s decor.
  • Float: Hanging just above the floor—usually about 1 to 2 inches off the ground. Creates a slight gap that gives the appearance of the curtains floating. This style is often chosen to keep the curtains clean from dust and to give a light, airy feel to the window treatments. Not the greatest look, but still an option I wanted to mention.

My personal favorite in all 3 of these is the puddle look. Definitely a more modern, refined look.

Large free standing tub in front of large windows.

Image Credit: Lily Pad Cottage

Types of Curtains to Choose From

When it comes to choice of curtains, you have three to choose from. Sheer; light-filtering; and blackout. Let’s break them down.

Sheer Curtains: Sheer curtains are going to let in the most natural light. Given that they are almost completely see-through, they provide the least amount of privacy.

When choosing curtains for our newly remodeled master bedroom, I made the mistake of ordering sheer curtains. Didn’t realize my rookie mistake until we were heading to bed and discovered the neighbors could see in plain as day. Not ideal for a bedroom. Haha!

Needless to say, we put up our old curtains the next day. And I ordered new light-filtering curtains.

Sheer curtains are a great option for a living room, dining room. Any living space where you don’t need extra privacy.

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Dining area with a large ficus tree.

Design Credit: @puresaltinteriors  Image Credit: @vlentine

Light-Filtering Curtains: Not letting in as much natural light as sheer curtains, light-filtering curtains provide privacy and reduce glare.

Softening and diffusing sunlight, they brighten the room without the harsh intensity of direct sunlight. They’re great for spaces where you want natural light during the day but also need privacy at night.

These curtains can help create a cozy, inviting atmosphere in any room. A perfect solution for a bedroom. However, if you have young children, you may prefer blackout curtains.

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Desk with a large ornamental tree next to it.

Design Credit: @puresaltinteriors  Image Credit: @vlentine

Blackout Curtains: These curtains, as their name suggests, block out everything. They are not letting any natural light in.

When my kids were little, it was a must having these curtains on their windows. Great for nap time and avoiding them getting up literally at the crack of dawn. Truly the best choice for little ones’ bedrooms.

Choosing the right curtains for your space is really dependent on personal preference and the amount of privacy you’re wanting.

But there’s one more option when it comes to choosing curtain styles. You can never go wrong with a layered look.

To achieve this look, simply hang roman shades and then flank the window with curtain panels on both sides. This will add dimension, texture and visual interest to your space. It’s a look that is timeless and is sure to elevate your living space.

Living room with large windows/ roman shades/linen curtains.

Image Credit: Ann Marie + Co

Determining the Right Size Curtain Rod

There are several types of curtain rods, each offering a different look and functionality for your window treatments. But here are the 3 most common choices:

Standard Rods: These are the most common type of curtain rods, known for their versatility. They can accommodate a wide range of curtain styles. From light sheers to heavier drapes, these rods are available in various materials and finishes.

Double Rods: Double rods are perfect for layering curtains, allowing you to hang both sheer curtains and heavier drapes on the same window. This setup provides flexibility in controlling light and privacy, and it adds depth to your window treatments.

Decorative Rods: Decorative rods add a stylish touch to your window treatments with their ornamental finials and various finishes. They’re chosen not just for functionality but also for their ability to complement the room’s decor, making them a popular choice for living areas and bedrooms.

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Bedroom with a bed in between 2 tall windows with sheer curtains for the right way to hang curtains.

Image Credit: Brooke Casa Del Sol

How to Hang Curtains and What is Needed

Materials Needed:

  • Curtain Rods: Choose the style that best fits your decor and the type of curtains you’re hanging.
  • Curtain Rod Brackets: These will support the rod. Make sure they match the size and type of your rod.
  • Curtain Panels: Given everything we discussed above, choose the style that best fits your needs.
  • Screws and Wall Anchors: Provided with the curtain rod or purchased separately for mounting the brackets securely, especially in drywall.
  • Pencil: For marking where to drill pilot holes for the brackets.
  • Ladder or Step Stool: To reach the height at which you’ll install the rod.
  • Wall Patching Kit (optional): For repairing any mistakes or previous holes in the wall.

Tools Needed:

  • Measuring Tape: To measure the window, the height at which you’ll hang the rod, and the spacing for the brackets.
  • Level: To ensure the rod hangs straight.
  • Drill: For making holes in the wall for the brackets.
  • Screwdriver: To secure the brackets and rod to the wall.
  • Stud Finder (optional): If you prefer to mount the brackets into studs for extra support.

Step 1: Decide on Curtain Placement and Style

Using the information we discussed above choose the placement and style of your curtains.

  • Decide how high above the window you want the curtains to hang.
  • Choose whether you want your curtains to kiss the floor, float, or puddle for a specific look.

Step 2: Measure the Width

Once again, using the information we’ve already discussed, determine the width you want your curtains to extend.

  • Use a measuring tape to measure the width of your window frame.
  • Add 8-12 inches on each side of the frame. This extra width allows your curtains to cover the window fully when open and provides a fuller look when closed.

Step 3: Determine the Curtain Length

  • Measure from the spot above the window where you’ll hang the rod down to your desired curtain length.
  • As we’ve already discussed, for high ceilings, consider long curtains that reach the floor for a more refined look.

Step 4: Choose and Purchase Your Curtains and Rod

  • Based on your measurements, select curtains and a rod that match your decor style and functional needs.
  • Remember, the rod should extend beyond your window’s width measurement to accommodate the added inches for a full look.

Step 5: Install the Curtain Rod

  1. Mark the Bracket Placement:
    • Hold the brackets up to the wall at your desired height above the window. Use a pencil to mark where the screws will go, ensuring the marks are level.
  2. Drill Pilot Holes:
    • Use a drill to make pilot holes at the marked spots. If you’re not drilling into studs, insert wall anchors to secure the screws.
  3. Attach the Brackets:
    • Screw the brackets into place, making sure they’re tight and level.

Bedroom with a four poster bed.

Design Credit: @puresaltinteriors  Image Credit: @vlentine

Step 6: Prepare the Curtain Panels

  • If your curtains have wrinkles, iron or steam them before hanging.
  • Attach any curtain rings or hooks if your curtain design requires them.

Step 7: Hang the Curtains

  • Slide the curtain panels onto the rod or attach them to the rings/hooks.
  • Carefully place the rod into the brackets and secure any set screws to hold the rod in place.

Step 8: Adjust and Finish

  • Adjust the curtains to spread evenly across the rod.
  • Step back and check if the curtains hang correctly and make any necessary adjustments.

Pro Tips:

  • Always double-check your measurements before drilling to ensure accuracy. Measure twice; drill once.
  • Use a level to ensure your rod hangs straight, enhancing the overall look.

Large picture windows with huge sheer curtains hanging down.

Image Credit: Steve Kemp | Architect

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me. I love helping you achieve the look you want for your home.

Let’s go beyond the design to build something beautiful together!

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