We might see curtains everyday but most homeowners aren't experts at where to place them relative to the windows they frame. Everyone has their own decorating style and not everyone uses curtains. Sometimes they might not be comfortable installing curtains, so they'll use blinds or nothing. Sounds like it's time to get the advise of an interior decorator and before you know it, you'll be hanging curtains in your favorite room.
This article began with a call from one of my handyman customers, asking if I had an article on hanging curtains. One of my handyman technicians was at her home to put up curtain rods but they weren't sure where to put them. When I couldn't find the information online, I knew it was time to write this article which proved more difficult that I expected.
There are more choices than you think starting with what kind of curtains to buy and where to hang them. Do you want curtains that are functional or strictly decorative like the curtains shown above?
…… in collaboration with Jennifer Myers, Jennifer Myers Interiors
Your First Decision: What Type of Curtains
Window Treatments: Where to Begin? was the first article in this series. Now that you've purchased your curtains, this article offers tips on installing curtains so you love how they transform your room.
First let's look at what type of curtains you bought, because that might affect where you place the curtains.
- Sheer curtains work with almost any decorating style, by themselves for privacy or layered behind decorative curtains. They cover the window opening and sometimes extend beyond to dress up the adjacent walls.
- Decorative curtains add color and depth to a room. While curtains traditionally have covered the entire window when closed, today it's common to use accent panels on one/both sides of the window for purely decorative purposes.
- Thermal and/or blackout curtains must cover the window to save energy or block out sunlight when closed. For these you want to consider hanging curtains so there's extra coverage around all four sides, to make the curtains as effective as possible.
Installing Curtains: Picking the Curtain Rod Height
Before you purchased your curtains, you decided (hopefully) how long you wanted them to be. For example, you might want them to fall to the floor (#1 below) or even puddle on the floor (read: What Are Puddled Curtains). Now that you know the length of the curtains, you need to calculate how many inches above the window, the curtain rod should be installed so that once you finish hanging the curtains, they fall where you want.
- There should be no more than one half inch clearance from the floor or window sill. Ideally you want the curtains to almost touch the floor while recognizing floors aren't always level. Check to see if there are any heating/cooling vents in the floor or on the wall slightly higher than floor level. Consider how these air vents might affect your new curtains and whether you want to make adjustments when hanging the curtains to avoid problems.
- The ideal position for the curtain rod is 6 inches above the window trim but you may need to adjust this up or down so the curtains end where you want them.
- You may need to adjust the height of the pole for different curtain “hanging” styles. Your curtains may hang from the pole using a sleeve, rings, grommets (shown above) or eyelets. Many rings are visible so curtains hang below them. If that's the case for your curtains, you'll have to place the pole higher to accommodate this extra spacing. Eyelets are hidden behind the tape on the back of the curtains. Typically the tape is 3 inches and the eyelet is in the middle of the tape with 1.5 inches standing above the pole or rod and thus, may require lowering the rod slightly.
- Remember the height is where the top of the curtain lies with respect to the pole/rod hardware. Use a pencil to mark the walls where the pole should sit and adjust the pole hardware accordingly.
- While you expect the curtain pole to be level, in older homes the ceiling height can vary by several inches from one end of the wall to the other end. You will need to tweak this by eye to find what is most pleasing. The person making this decision should stand at the doorway/entrance to the room where this will be most noticeable.
Determining Curtain Placement Outside/Inside the Window
Your curtains will be either functional (you can close them) or part of your decorating scheme. Ideally you don't want to block the windows as you want maximum natural sunlight coming into your room (except when the curtains are closed). You know the width of your window and the width of your curtains, so let's start the process of installing curtains.
- The ideal position for the curtain rod is 6 inches to the left/right of the window trim. You may need to make adjustments based on how much linear space is needed for the curtain fabric to hang easily and look “full”. The finials, or decorative ends of poles may extend past the 6 inches.
- Functional curtains when open must accommodate the folds of the curtain fabric. For an average single window, the 6 inches plus the width of the window trim (typically 3 to 4 inches) should work fine. If you are putting up curtains for a larger window (6 foot or wider), check your calculations.
- Don't forget to include curtain tiebacks when finalizing the width of the curtain rod, as these may take a few more inches of wall space beyond the curtain pole, not necessarily for the tieback but for the actual curtain fabric to hang elegantly.
Hanging Curtains Using Our Template
Don't panic. The math is pretty simple so here goes …
- Measure the width of your window. For this example we'll use a six foot window = 72 inches.
- Measure the width of the window trim. For example we'll use 4 inches x 2 sides = 8 inches.
- Add 72 in (window) + 8 in (trim) + 12 in (6 extra inches on each side) = 92 inch curtain rods.
Now you need to decide how full you want the curtains to be when closed. This means how many ripples you want in the fabric. The general rule of thumb is 60% fullness but if you want narrower ripples, you can go up to 100% fullness. Plus you may need to add inches to wrap your curtain fabric around the sides of the curtain rod. So let's look at a few examples using our 92 inch curtain rod.
- 60% fullness is 92 in x 1.6 = 147.2 inches or 148 in rounding up.
- 100% fullness is 92 in x 2 or 184 inches.
- Using 45 inch panels, your choices are 3 panels (3 x 45 in/panel = 135 inches) or 4 panels (4 x 45 in/panel = 180 in).
- Using 54 inch panels, your choices are 3 panels (3 x 54 in/panel = 165 inches) or 4 panels (4 x 54 in/panel = 216 in).
When curtains are open, the bunched up fabric is known as stacking.
There's no magic formula for stacking all curtains. Lined curtains or a very heavy fabric like brocade, won't stack as tight. Very light fabrics like voile will stack more tightly so you might not need a full 6 inches. Consider how much available wall space you want to leave for a mirror or picture? That's because with the new focus on wall textures, extending your curtains to the edge of the wall might be just the right decorating touch.
PS If you're not comfortable hanging curtains yourself, call your local handyman. If you've bought the curtains, the curtain rods and decided where you want them (that's the hardest part), you've already done more than half the work!