8 Really Good Tips for Hanging Curtains

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 beautifully executed window treatment can transform a 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.

Follow these 8 great tips for success with all window treatments including valances (top treatments).

Tip #1: Hang the Window Treatment High

This is the most important rule for professional-looking, attractive window treatments: Hang the curtains high to give your room a luxurious illusion of extra height. The pole or valance should be positioned a minimum of 4 inches and a maximum of 12 inches above the top of the window in most cases. 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 anything about installing curtain rods? Avoid making unnecessary holes in your walls -- hire a local handyman in your area to do the job right.

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.         

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

When installing a curtain rod, ALWAYS extend the pole at least three inches beyond each side of the fame. There are 4 reasons for this:

  • to give the illusion that the window is large
  • to let more sunlight into your room
  • to prevent shadows on the sides of the window
  • to add visual appeal by revealing more of the glass rather than a cramped curtain.

When curtains are hanging in the open position, each 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 to remove any folds or wrinkles. This may sound fundamental, but it is amazing how often people hang the panel right out of the bag, thinking that the wrinkles will “fall out” in time. They usually do not.

Tip #5: Leave Room Underneath for Cleaning

The proper position 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 or 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.

Adjust the length of curtain panels with the Bishop Sleeve trick. Hang something as inexpensive and simple as a twin flat sheet using the folded hem as a rod pocket. Slide the pole through the sheet hem and snap it into the bracket. You've now transformed your sheet into an unlined curtain panel with excess length on the floor. To shorten, 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 you don't want to make holes in the wall or you're working with a plaster wall, use a tension rod. This style rod, which mounts inside the window, is made with an inner spring and will expand from side to side using tension instead of screws to hold it 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, in either a solid color or a coordinating pattern, as an appealing design detail which can make a packaged curtain look custom-made. A texture like velvet or suede is interesting. For a quick no-sew application, iron some fabric fusion between the two fabrics to bind them together.

This article was updated November 23, 2017.

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