How To Hang Curtains Like An Interior Designer

I was not paid to write this post, however, it may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I may make a small profit at no expense to you. For further information, please view my policies.

There are no mysterious secrets when it comes to hanging curtains the right way.

It really is all about a few simple measurements! By following some basic design rules, you can achieve professional-looking results at a fraction of the cost.

But if you want to achieve designer results, then you need to be aware of a few things before you start. This knowledge will not only allow you to hang your curtains yourself and select the style you want with confidence, but it will also prevent you from making costly mistakes.

Watch the video instead!

So you will actually save money when you are armed with everything you need to know! Which is what I am all about.

elegant green curtains design by amber interiors
Source: Amber Interiors

Why should I care how I hang my curtains?!

Because you can make your room look x100 better!

Time and time again, I see curtain rods being hung way too low, which makes a small space appear even smaller.

But did you know that you can dramatically improve the overall look of a room simply by shifting your curtain rods by a few inches?

By hanging your curtains with a little extra attention, you can:

  • make your ceilings appear higher
  • make your windows look bigger
  • allow more light into your room
  • add more impact to your room
  • make your space look more polished

We’re going to go through everything in order to take you from being a beginner curtain-hanger into a true professional!


Measurements Are Everything

how to measure and hang curtains

Before you even consider buying your new curtains, you have some measuring to do!

So go find your measuring tape because you can’t skip this step!

You are going to be measuring BEFORE buying your curtains for three super important reasons:

  1. You need to know how wide a rod you need
  2. You need to know how wide each curtain panel needs to be
  3. You need to know how long your curtains need to be

What exactly do you need to measure?

There are 4 measurements we need to make note of. Let’s take a look!

MEASUREMENT #1. Measure the width of your window from trim to trim. Based on the width of your window, you’ll decide how wide your rod needs to be.

correct curtain rod length infographic

  • The general rule is that the curtain rod itself should be 8″ to 12″ inches longer than the width of the window.
  • You want to have an extra 4″ to 6″ inches of rod extending out from both sides of your window.
  • Make sure you have enough “extra rod” so that when the curtains are fully open, you are only covering the very edges of the actual window.
  • It’s important to make sure you can see as much of the full window as possible. This way you are only blocking minimal precious light from flowing into your room. It also gives the illusion of bigger windows and it doesn’t cover your view. 🙂

 

MEASUREMENT #2. Decide how high you want to hang your rod.

correct curtain rod height infographic

  • The general rule is to mount the rod anywhere between halfway to two thirds between the top of the window frame and the ceiling or ceiling molding.
  • You can even go closer to your moldings for maximum impact – 3/4″ from the bottom of the molding tends to look good. However if there is a LOT of space between the top of your window trim and your molding, being too close to the molding might look odd. Use your own discretion!
  • This will help create the illusion of a taller window, higher ceilings, and will allow the fabric to hang gracefully. We want all of these things.

 

MEASUREMENT #3. Again, based on the width of your window, decide how wide each curtain panel needs to be.

correct curtain curtain width infographic

  • The general rule is that curtain panels should be about 1.5x to 2x times the width of the window you’re attempting to cover.
  • This will ensure that you maintain a “gathered” look even when the curtains are pulled closed.

 

MEASUREMENT #4. Based on the height of your rod, measure how long each curtain panel needs to be.

correct curtain curtain length infographic

  • Don’t forget to take into account extra inches for hemming and the curtain header. For example, curtains with rod pockets will hang shorter than curtains with grommets or tab tops.
  • Give yourself at least 5″ to 10″ extra inches to be safe! For more information on different curtain lengths, keep reading!

Picking the Length of your Curtains

Now that you are in possession of all these measurements, you can buy your curtains confidently!

If you’re stuck on measuring for step 4 above, you might be unsure exactly HOW long your curtains should be.

Take a deep breath! It’s going to be ok.

Here are the most popular ways interior designers hang curtains and drapes.

  • Puddle: this is by far the most dramatic of all the ways to hang curtains (and the one that is the most tedious to keep clean). To achieve the puddling effect, add an extra 2″ to 4″ inches beyond the floor to your panels. For even MORE dramatic puddling, check out this guide.

puddle curtain length example

  • Break puddle: The idea is that you add an extra 1/2″ to 1″ to the curtain length so that the panel “breaks” as it hits the floor. This way the panel doesn’t hang straight and adds a bit of interest.
 
break puddle curtains example
 
  • Kissing the floor: this is the hardest method to pull off but looks the most tailored and custom. You need to be incredibly accurate in your measurements in order to get this right. If your curtains kiss the floor, they are literally hovering perfectly on the surface of the floor. To accomplish this, you need to measure the exact distance from the top of the curtains to the floor. A tip to do this accurately is to hang the curtains on the rod and mark or pin them while they are already hanging.
 
curtains kissing the floor example
 
  • Floating: if you can’t get on board with the idea of your curtains touching the ground at all, then opt for hanging them just a 1/2″ inch above the floor. This gives an extremely clean look, albeit slightly less formal. Your curtains should hang perfectly straight with this method. Try not to go any higher than 1/2″ off the ground, or it will start to look like a mistake in your measurements.

curtains floating example

So with all that being said, you need to consider not only what you like, but the function and style of your room.

Is it casual or formal? Romantic or laid back? Ultra modern or boho vintage?

Bedrooms are normally less formal than say a dining room, so perhaps you want to avoid very long curtains. Unless you are going for a very romantic bedroom look: in which case, puddling would be entirely appropriate! Puddling can also look very pretty in a nursery. 

Dining rooms tend to be formal so puddling would be a great option.

Living rooms are somewhere in between formal and casual, so kissing the floor could work well.

Of course, it is up to you and your personal taste!

When you are shopping for your curtains, I would suggest that you err on the side of buying longer panels. Extra inches are always good to have.

The standard length of readymade curtains are generally 63″ and 84″ and simply put this is TOO SHORT!

Your best bet is to look for pre-made panels in 95″, 108″ or 120″ if you’ve got ultra high ceilings (these are all also standard curtains lengths).

 

 

How to Hang the Rod and Curtains

Are you still with me? Great!

By now you should have your measurements, your rod, brackets and your curtains! It’s time to hang!

Tools and supplies you’ll need

  • A curtain rod with brackets
  • Screws
  • Wall anchors (optional)
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Screwdriver or drill
  • Pencil
  • Your curtains

How to properly hang curtains

Step 1. Take all your window measurements (scroll up if you missed that section!)

Step 2. Using a drill or screwdriver, hang the first bracket with screws. Use anchors if your rod and curtains are heavy.

Step 3. Add the rod and position the second bracket – before you screw it in, use a level on the rod to ensure it’s straight. You may need a third bracket in the middle if your rod is longer than 4′ feet.

Step 4. Add the curtain panels to the rod and center the rod.

Step 5. Tighten the set screws on the brackets to prevent the rod from shifting left and right.

Here is the full video if you want to check it out!

Images and video courtesy of Canadian Tire


Using a template to position your brackets

There are a few ways to make templates for hanging curtains – just do a quick google search and you’ll find a bunch.

With multiple windows to tackle, using a template is going to be a huge time saver; you only need to measure once and then the template guides you the rest of the way.

Personally, I think it’s only worth spending the time to make a template if you have a lot of curtains to hang that all need the exact same measurements.


Top 5 Common Curtain Mistakes

If you already hung your curtains before finding this article and you’re wondering why your curtain situation is looking less than stellar, some of the reasons below could be why:

  1. Hanging the rod too low. Your eye will naturally stop at the highest element in the room (usually a curtain rod) and will ignore the rest. If your rod is hung too low, you’re effectively lowering the overall height of your ceilings even more. Raise that rod! It will lift the eye and it will lift your ceilings.
  2. Excessive puddling. If you’re tripping over your curtain puddles, or your dog or cat has taken to making a bed in it, it might be a sign that you’ve taken the puddling look a step too far.
  3. Buying too short curtains (girl, did you skip the measuring part?! 😂). This is a sign of not having taken accurate measurements before buying the curtains.
  4. Not buying a wide enough rod. You are actually making your beautiful windows look smaller by not having a wide enough rod.
  5. Curtain panels not wide enough. Narrow curtain panels look like two sad strips of toilet paper hangin’ out to dry. Big yikes. Make sure you get your curtain width right! The panels should look at least somewhat gathered even when the curtains are closed.

Other Curtain Tips

Wash and dry before hanging (pre-shrink!):

You’ll definitely want to wash and dry your curtains before hanging them. This is in case there is any shrinkage.

If you don’t normally use a dryer, you can skip the dryer phase.

It would be devastating to spend all that time hanging your curtains and rod to the EXACT millimeter that you want, only to find that they have shrunk an inch in the wash!

Hem without cutting:

If you need to hem your curtains, I strongly advise you not to cut them! Just fold and sew! If you hang the panels and realize they are too short, it’s much easier to just grab a seam ripper and start over rather than having to buy a new set of curtains. It’s also easier to reuse curtains in a new house if you move.

Weights and training your drapes:

Don’t like the way your curtains are hanging? You can add curtain weights or pennies to the hems to give the panels weight and dimension. 

If you’re hanging outdoor curtains, you will definitely want to do this, to avoid having your curtains blow every which way!

You can sew a lightweight beaded chain into the hem of your curtains to keep them from blowing around. The chain should be flexible enough to allow for tying back and gathering the curtains if you need to. 

Without weights, another way to make your drapes hang properly is to train your drapes. This just involves gathering them into folds, tying them and leaving them for a few weeks. You can also speed up the process my steaming them instead.

Fix sagging rods:

If you’ve got the dreaded SAGGING CURTAIN ROD, there’s an easy fix!

Cut out a piece of plastic from the top of a yogurt container or other similar type of plastic. Then slide it in the gap between the two rods. Make sure it’s on the top side of the rod.

how to fix a sagging curtain rod
source: young house love

This trick should fix any minor rod sagging and also helps with OCD 😂

Rod appears crooked:

Sometimes if you hang your rod very close to the ceiling it can still look crooked even if you’ve used a level. If you’re hanging your rod very close to the ceiling, skip the level and use the ceiling as your straight edge. That way even if your ceiling is slightly crooked (it happens a lot in older homes), your rod will still appear straight.

 

 

Common Curtain Questions

Question: How do I hang curtains without drilling?

ANSWER: Command hooks! It may not be the most elegant solution, but it can work if you really want to hang curtains but aren’t able to drill holes in your wall.

Make sure you double check the weight of your rod and curtains and buy the larger command hooks that can take a heavier load. Nobody wants their curtains to come crashing down on them.

You can also use a tension rod. They are just rods that stretch from the inside of one window frame to the other. Obviously you’d only be able to cover your actual window panes this way but if you’re desperate for privacy and can’t drill, tension rods are a great and fast solution.

Question: How can I hem curtains without sewing?

ANSWER: You can hem them while they’re hanging directly on the rod!

Fold and pin to the length you want. Then bring your ironing board over to the window and iron the hem. Remove pins, use iron-on hemming tape. Done.

This brilliant blog post shows you exactly how to do it.

Question: How do I hang curtains if I have baseboard heaters?

ANSWER: A common question is how far away to your hang curtains from baseboard heaters. There are a few different kinds of home heating systems but you really only need to be careful with one of them: electric heating.

Electric baseboards:  A word of warning: if you’ve got electric baseboard heaters, please BE VERY CAREFUL, as your drapes could ignite!! This HAS happened to people, some fires have even been fatal.

If you are hanging curtains near electric heaters, make sure you are following safety precautions:

  • Make sure there are at least 4″ inches of clearance between the panels and the top of the heaters. Some sources even go as far as saying you need up to 10″ or 12″ inches clearance.
  • If your panels run from ceiling to floor, ensure that you have at least 2″ or 3″ inches between the back of the drapes and the front of your heaters. You may need to get rods that project further away from the wall than normal, in order to be safe.
  • You also need to leave 1″ clearance between the bottom of the drapes and the floor. This is to ensure adequate air circulation and prevents the panel from becoming too hot.

If you have ANY doubts whatsoever, get advice from a local home safety inspector in your area. It’s worth it for peace of mind.

If you decide to ditch the drapes due to electric baseboard heating, a great alternative is to use fabric or woven roman shades instead.

Hot water baseboards or hot water radiators: If you have hot water baseboards or rads, you’re fine to hang your curtains normally. There is no way hot water heating could generate enough heat to ignite your curtains.

Heating vents: If you have those vents in the floor or in the wall that shoot out air, there shouldn’t be any fire hazard. However, the airflow might be blowing your curtains around, which is annoying. If you have this issue, you can use magnetic vent covers.

Apparently, magnetic vent covers also help save energy, so that’s a plus. Some kinds of magnetic vent covers can be painted to match your room’s wall color, as well.

Question: How to hang curtains from the ceiling?

Whether you are creating a divider with curtain panels to section off an area of your home, or you just want to hang your curtains as high as possible, it’s actually very popular to hang curtains directly from the ceiling.

You can use do any of the following:

  • simply mount your rod brackets to the ceiling instead of the wall (it should work in most cases)
  • use a curtain track
  • try this versatile curtain wire system from IKEA

If I did my job, then hopefully you’ve channeled your inner interior designer and you have the confidence you need to finally hang those curtains! It’s an awesome feeling to be able to achieve results in your home that you’re happy with and save money at the same time!

If you still have questions, please leave a comment and let me know how I can help!

NEXT UP: Find out how curtains can help make your home cozy

 

 

 

I was not paid to write this post, however it may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I may make a small profit at no expense to you. For further information please view my policies.

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39 Comments

  1. If I want to puddle my draperies in every room of my house I will,because its my house not yours!!! Furthermore, just because a home isnt new construction doesnt mean the ceiling wont be straight. New construction can be a joke as well when is the last time you watched Holmes on Holmes???

  2. Thank you so much for the information. I will put your suggestions to use when I put all new curtains up.

  3. I got my bedroom drapes refreshed by an upholstery cleaner this morning and then I hung them back up with a new curtain rod using your tips. I was so surprised at how much better they looked when I actually hung them the right way. My bedroom looks much more open and elegant now.

  4. I have small narrow windows in my old house. I was thinking valances and then adding something sheer behind it. Ceiling 8ft and windows are 18″ below ceiling. What do you thjnk

  5. Hi Vivien,
    I live in an old building that was turned into condos so the bedroom an odd window that is 2″ from a wall on one side. Any tips for what curtain rod length to buy? (Should it be asymmetrical with 4″-6″ on the side away from the wall, or should I have it be symmetrical with 1″-2″ on both sides?
    Thank you! Loving the videos and posts!

  6. I have two large windows on the same wall about 12″ apart from each other. We already have some woven wood shades, but I feel like I would like to add curtains. I love all of your helpful info, but I’m not sure if I should get a rod long enough to go across both windows with three panels, or get Two separate rods with four curtain panels. HELP!

  7. AWESOME Info! I’m replacing vertical blinds in my condo. I have two large sliding glass doors that I need to order curtains or drapes for. Where can I order 1 panel curtains and rods for windows/sliding doors that are 71 inches wide and 80 inches tall? I want them to kiss the floor and be mounted on the ceiling. Ceiling is 95.5″
    Should I do two types? One being a sheer and another being a black out curtain (need black out for master)