Decorating can be subjective. While there may be a variety of “rules”, much of the field is an art which requires an eye for detail and just knowing what looks good in particular environments.
While designers differ in their opinions, I am going to provide you with what I think it takes to make drapery panels look their best in a transitional or traditional home. I am also going to provide my rationale to understand the ‘art’ behind the opinion.
Here are 4 key points dealing with the height, length and width of decorative curtain panels.
#1 Hang the curtains as high as possible… because it makes the room appear taller and more substantial.
Whatever you do, do not hang them directly on your window casing or just above like this:
Do hang them like this- as close to the crown molding or ceiling as possible:
#2 Have your drapery rod extend past your window no less than 6” on each side, preferably longer… so you can ‘stack back’ your curtains and leave your window exposed to let the light in.
In both these photos, the ‘window’ is a functional door, but the panels sit just at the edge of the door frames and they hang over sheet rock, not the window or door.
While we are on the subject of rods, don’t measure the width of the window then buy a rod the same length or a few inches longer. Ideally, I add about 12” past the window casing on either side to make the window look larger and also let you enjoy your view (or your plantation shutters or woven wood blinds if you do not have a good view).
#3 Have the curtains hit the floor and break about 1” ….because then you avoid the messiness of a full puddle and you also avoid looking like the curtains were made too short (like high water pants).
Curtain lengths are a bit like pant lengths, the styles change over time. However, I don’t know when ‘short’ curtains have ever been in style. No matter what, the curtains need to hit the floor.
In some style homes, particularly a more formal environment, a rich puddle of silk curtain on the floor looks fabulous. But if you are going for this look, you need to make sure the whole room is at a certain taste level to pull it off.
#4 Curtain widths should be at least 1 full width of fabric (never less and preferably more)…… because a thin stripe of fabric just looks cheap and you would be better off having no curtains than having bad curtains.
Rich Curtains (note where hung- just below the crown molding):
Fuller curtain panels look better. If you walked into a room with skimpy curtains, you may not be able to immediately identify what is off, but something just won’t feel right. At minimum you need a single width (usually 54” which pleats down to about 18” when sewn) on either side of a window. If your budget and space allows, it is nice to increase that to one and a half widths or even a double widths. If you want your curtains to function (versus be decorative) you will very likely have to increase the width anyway.
Now you have a few basic tips to use for when the time comes to buy or custom make drapery panels for your home. Trust me, good looking drapery panels go a long way to completing your space and making it look fabulous!
Hi Heather – thanks for your suggestions. i am having trouble decorating my living room window as it it recessed 12″ and trying to find the right rod is tough (window is 98 inches long). I did however purchase curtains that hang from the top of the wall, as you suggested. Any suggestions for a rod… can’t be decorative as the finials will take up space where the curtain should hang. Thanks. I cannot find anything on the internet!!
PS- have a cousin in Austin that sells real estate – Holland Wiler.
Can you find flat end caps for the end of the rod? Also, you can often purchase ‘inside mount’ mounting brackets which basically mounts the rod wall to wall.
Thank you for your reply. That is exactly what I did… i purchased a rod w/ a semi-flat end. If that doesn’t work, I’ll take your suggestion and purchase an inside mount. Thanks Heather.
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I have tall windows that include a transom and there is only ~3″ of wall space between the top of the window trim and the bottom of the crown molding. I plan to mount the rod brackets just under the crown molding, but am concerned b/c the window hardware (rings w/clips) do not clear the top of the window trim (by about 1/2″). Is this OK or should I consider an alternative?
Hi Jill- I think you should look at an alternative. The easiest solution will be to use rings without clips and have drapery pins on the back of your panels that you can move down to raise the panels up and cover the trim. Another option is ceiling mounted brackets. But I think the pins and no clips are the best solution. Good luck!
We have plantation shutters in our home and I saw a home the other day that had draperies with their plantation shutters. They looked really good. It’s funny because I would not have thought they would but seeing them together really worked for me. Now I’m really thinking about doing the same.