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The Do’s and Don’ts of Hanging Curtains

updated Oct 19, 2022
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Curtains complete a room. They help control the light, lend privacy and warmth, affirm your style, and add texture and color. Here’s how to maximize their benefits with these guidelines and make your window treatments the most they can be.

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The Dos & Don'ts of Hanging Curtains
(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

Don’t Go Too Narrow

Select a curtain rod that is wider than the width of your window. This will allow enough room for the panels to hang on either side of your window and will force the panels to cover the window at all times. It also tricks your eye into thinking the window is much larger than it actually is. The rule of thumb is to go 8″-12″ wider than your window.

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

DO Use Enough Fabric

You want your curtains to feel full, not skimpy. If you actually plan to close your curtains on occasion, the curtains should be roughly between two and 2.5 times the width of the actual window.

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

DO Hang High

The higher the curtain rod, the taller the window will appear, so fix your curtain rod closer to the ceiling than the top of your window, if you can. One rule of thumb is that they should sit 4-6 inches above the window frame.

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

DON’T Go Too Short

The fabric should fall to the floor unless you use cafe-style curtains. These are the highwater pants of curtains and not a good look. A little puddling (as seen here in various shots) can be nice if you want a romantic feel, but, if you don’t want to worry about them dragging and getting dirty, then stop the fabric just before they hit the floor — a little under an inch is good.

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

DO Choose Appropriate Fabric

Choose curtain fabric that suits both the mood of the room and its function. Lighter blends feel casual and filter light, while denser fabrics feel more formal and provide more privacy. Try something like heavy velvet for drafty windows or linen for a breezier feel during the summer.

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

DO Use a Template

A simple template ensures you hang the curtain rod at the same height for every window, and that your rods won’t be crooked. The one above was made using a couple of pieces of cardboard and saved time otherwise spent measuring from the corner of the windows. (Use a level, too, especially if you live in an old house with less-than-perfect walls). And if you’re a renter, check out these tips for hanging curtains without damaging your walls!

(Image credit: Hippo Wong)

Re-edited from a post originally published 1.27.16