8 Really Good Tips for Hanging Curtains

Atlanta interior designer Lee Anne Culpepper shares expert tips for hanging curtains.

Posted by Lee Anne Culpepper | Jul 10, 2012
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Properly hung curtains. Photo and interior design by Lee Anne Culpepper.Curtains add to the beauty of the room and are as important to the finished design as art and wall color. A well appointed window treatment can totally transform a common boring window into a dramatic show stopper. Currently, the trend is floor length curtain panels hung on an iron rod or decorative curtain rod with finials. The look is simple and elegant. Unless the window has lovely architectural style, adding curtain panels can be the final layer that completes a room design.

The rules and tips listed apply to all window treatments including valances (top treatments).

Tip #1: Hang the Window Treatment High

Hang the window treatment high to give the illusion of height; this is the most important rule when hanging a curtain. The pole or valance should be hung a minimum of 4 inches and a maximum of 12 inches above the top of the window in most cases. When this rule is ignored and the curtain is hung on or just above the wood work, it always looks unprofessional and inexpensive. Even a budget valance or unlined curtain panel can look well done and professional when hung at the proper height above the window. Don't know how to install a curtain rod? Avoid making holes in your walls by calling a local handyman.

Tip #2: Create an Illusion of Height with a Shade

Here is a trick to make the window look tall and important. Hang the pole at least twelve inches above the frame and hang a bamboo or roman shade under the pole. Combining the two window treatments adds to the design and allows the panels to be hung high without a large space of blank wall showing through. The shade is covering the blank wall and gives the illusion that the window is tall.         

Tip #3: Extend the Curtain Rod Beyond the Width of the Window

A common mistake people make when hanging a curtain is to install the pole the exact width as the window. When installing the curtain rod ALWAYS extend the pole at least three inches beyond each side of the fame.  There are several reasons for this: It gives the illusion that the window is large and lets in more light and it is more visually appealing to see more of the glass rather than a cramped curtain. Hanging the curtain outside the window frame also prevents shadows on the sides of the window.  When a curtain panel is hanging in the open position, each curtain panel should measure 12 inches in width.  The inside vertical edge of the curtain should hang 3 inches into the glass portion of the window. 

Tip #4: Press or Steam the Curtain

Press or steam the curtain so that no folds or wrinkles exist. This may sound fundamental, but it is amazing how often people hang the panel right out of the bag and theorize that the wrinkles will “fall out” in time. They usually do not.

Tip #5: Leave Room Underneath the Curtains to Mop

The proper curtain length is ½ inch above the floor for free hanging curtains. This distance allows for mopping and cleaning while creating the illusion that the curtain touches the floor.

Tip #6: Adjust the Length of the Curtain with Creative Hem Finishes

A popular hem finish for silk curtains and lined curtains is called a trouser kick. In this case the bottom of the curtain touches the floor about 3 inches longer than flush and breaks forward like trousers do at the ankle on top of the foot.

Another way to finish the bottom of a curtain panel is called a puddle finish. In this case a hem is not always necessary.  The curtain is made 9 to 12 inches too long and the excess fabric is tucked and puffed on the floor.

Another trick to adjust the length of curtain panels is called a Bishop Sleeve.  In this instance something as inexpensive and simple as a twin flat sheet can be hung by using the folded hem as a rod pocket. The pole slides through the hem and is then snapped into the bracket. The sheet has now transformed into an unlined curtain panel with excess length on the floor.  To shorten the length, tie a string around the sheet about 31 inches above the floor. Tap a finishing nail into the vertical wood trim and loop the string over the nail. Puff the fabric above the string.  Voila! 

Tip #7: Use a Tension Rod if You Can't Hang a Curtain Rod

In cases where no holes are allowed in the wall or it is a plaster wall, a tension rod or shower curtain tension rod can be used. This style rod mounts inside the window and they are made with inner springs and will expand from side to side using tension instead of screws to hold the rod in place.

Tip #8: Add a Width of Fabric to Short Curtains

When a curtain panel is too short, a width of fabric can be added at the bottom. The fabric can be a solid color or it can have a pattern that coordinates with the curtain fabric. The fabric can have a texture like velvet or suede to add interest. Adding a fabric at the bottom of the curtain often adds an appealing design detail and makes a packaged curtain look custom made. To add fabric to the hem of a curtain without sewing, simply iron some fabric fusion between the two fabrics to bind them together.

Lee Anne Culpepper is an Atlanta interior designer who works with Atlanta painting contractors.

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