How to hang curtains

Window treatments are a MUST in pretty much any space. Most of the time, that means curtains. They can trick the eye into thinking a room is taller, pull together colors, add texture, so many things! We have design clients with all kinds of budgets but most are pretty realistic. Not everyone can afford to have custom curtains made. I can’t and I am the designer. For rooms that don’t demand something custom and super unique, I try and make ready made curtains work. But there are RULES & TRICKS! Very specific rules that after 15 years of decorating client’s houses, I’ve learned to live by and have fun with the tricks to get a custom look from curtains off the rack.


MTM: [Mold to Mold] Measure from the outside of the window frame Left to Right

MTF: [Mold to Floor] Measure from the top of the window molding to the floor

CTF: [Crown/Ceiling to Floor] Measure from crown molding or ceiling when there is no crown to the floor

How to Apply Your Measurements to Curtain Hardware

  1. Plan on mounting your rod 4″-6″ outside the width of the window. This lets in the most amount of natural light. Obsessed with natural light! So you’ll need to add 8″-12″ to the MTM distance. (Sorry for the math peeps… make a cocktail & we’ll get through this)
  2. You want to buy a curtain rod that is not stretched to the limits on the width of the window. If I had a 36″ window and plan to add 8″ for mounting then my width is really 44″ and I would look for a rod (or curtain hardware as it’s called online) that has 44″ and not at the very end of the range. Why? So that the center of the rod doesn’t sag due to being at the end of its capabilities.
  3. Mount the curtains at the right height. DO NOT mount curtains based upon the height of the window. Mount them according to the height of the room. I can’t stress this enough. Curtains come in 84″, 95″/96″, and 108″. We’ll get into tricks to get the right height in a bit but you’ll need to mount your hardware at either halfway between MTF & CTF or just under the crown/ceiling height.  If I have an 82″ MTF but a 95″ CTF, I would likely hang my curtains (this is the top of the curtains or rod-whichever is higher) at 92″. This will raise the room and make it feel taller.
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how to hang curtains at right height


how to hang curtains 2 Grommet how to hang curtains 3 Rod Pocket how to hang curtains 4 Back Tab how to hang curtains 5 Pinch Pleat

  1. GROMMET: My Favorite! They stay where you position them, they’re modern and they’re very easy to find.
  2. ROD POCKET: A huge NO-NO. I never hang this kind. They always creep into the window and never stay where I put them. No matter what you do to them, they will never look custom.
  3. BACK TAB: Do-able. They will work well and can have different front treatments while actually hanging on the rod with a little loop the rod slips through in the back.
  4. PINCH PLEAT: These are a very custom looking, traditional treatment that many companies are letting go of. A dying breed so to speak. If you use this kind, you’ll need to also get curtain rings and curtain hooks to hang them.


  1. Order a few options! Online shopping can be tricky. Order a few different colors to see in the light of your house & with your colors. Return the ones that don’t work out.
  2. Hemming to length: If I need a longer length according to my measurements, then I order the next size up and take them to my seamstress or to the dry cleaner to be hemmed to length.
  3. Lengthen the panels: Sometimes the best options only come in shorter lengths (especially when you’re dealing with 2 story rooms). Order an extra curtain panel or two extend a curtain in a creative way.

how to hang curtains 2

Courtesy of Houzz


  1. JCPenney Lengths up to 120″ and a wide array of styles. Order online. Limited selection in store.
  2. Bed Bath & Beyond Only shorter lengths are found in store but longer versions can be ordered online easy returns to the store!
  3. West Elm Our go to place for mid-century modern looks.
  4. Houzz Better choices of fabrics and designs
  5. Etsy Custom curtains made at ready made lengths. Pricier tho.
  6. Overstock Look for pairs at one price!
  7. Wayfair Lengths up to 120″ and easy favorites options to narrow your search.
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Hang Curtains High

There are varying opinions on where to hang curtains, but ultimately most interior designers and Design Consultants recommend raising them higher than the window frame. This draws the eye upward and prevents the window from appearing crowded. Hanging the drapery high makes the window and the room look taller. Even in a small room, if you mount your drapery on or near the ceiling, you will create the illusion of space.

With regard to how high to hang curtains, that depends on the situation. When I’m evaluating this question for my clients, I go through the following checklist:

  • Bare minimum: at least 3” to 6” higher than the top of the window, if you have that much room to work with.
  • Even better: halfway between the top of the window and the ceiling, plus an inch or two. We add the extra inch to avoid dissecting the room at the halfway point, which can make the space feel squat.
  • If you have crown molding, mount the curtain rod right beneath the crown molding.
  • If the window is less than 6” from the ceiling, and there is no crown molding, then ceiling mounting the drapery is best. The ceiling mount is also a fantastic option if you want the appearance of lofty, sophisticated curtains, or if you want the curtains to look like they are floating.

Choose the Length: Float vs. Puddle

Now that we’ve touched on how high to raise your hardware and how wide to make your drapery, the last element to consider is how your curtains meet the floor.

  • Float means that your curtains hover slightly off the floor. This is preferable if the drapery is going to move frequently. The proper float is somewhere between ½” to 1” off of the floor, but this can get tricky at times, especially with materials that “grow” like Wool and Linen. Ask your Design Consultant about material-specific concerns like this when calculating your float.
  • Break is having the fabric kiss the floor, with roughly 1” to 2” of excess. This is a good option if the floors are uneven and you are trying to disguise them.
  • Puddle means longer curtains, with 3” to 6” of extra fabric puddling on the floor. This is a very elegant look, and is also a great option for disguising uneven floors. However, the more extra fabric you have on the bottom of a curtain, the more dust it may collect, so I would only recommend breaks and puddles for stationary drapes.
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Tailored Pleat Drapes with puddle

Tailored Pleat Drapes with puddle.

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