Tips for Hanging Curtains That Will Make Your Windows Look Fabulous

Consult our guide to dressing your windows before you pick out and hang your curtains.

There are seemingly endless possibilities when buying and hanging curtains and window treatments. Do you go for heavy drapes to keep out the winter draft, gauzy sheers that let the sun in, or practical blinds that ensure privacy? And even once you've picked out and brought home the right curtain, one more challenge is how to install it.

Luckily, the process becomes much simpler if you know the basics before you start. Once you know exactly where the curtain rod should be placed, and if you've measured before you shop, you're much more likely to get a look you love (and will want to live with) on the first try. Here are five tips for hanging curtains like a pro.

Think About Functionality

Curtains and window treatments are more than just decorative touches—they serve real, practical functions. You may like the look of sheer curtains in the bedroom, but if sunlight waking you up in the morning is a daily problem, opting for a light-clocking roller shade may be better than a decorative, airy curtain. Before you purchase curtains, ask yourself these questions:

  • How much light do you want to filter through? You have many possibilities, from black-out drapes to completely sheer curtains.
  • What room will they hang in, and how much sun does it get? Asking this question will help you determine what color to choose. For example, bright-colored curtains will fade in a heavily sunlit room. In that case, you might want to stick to a neutral color.
  • Will you be opening and closing them frequently? Grommet curtains are known for being easy to open and close.
  • Will they be aiding with insulation from drafts? Go with heavier drapes made of velvet, tweed, or brocade.

Place the Curtain Rod in the Right Spot

Height of Curtain Rod

Many homeowners install curtain rod brackets into the top of the window molding. But according to designers, if you want to make a small room look larger, install them above and outside the window molding. A typically good spot is halfway between the top of the window casing and the ceiling.

Width of Curtain Rod

You also want the curtain rod to extend out to the right and left of the window by four to 10 inches. When you open your drapes, they should have plenty of room to hang on either side of your window. Giving the curtains lots of room on either side will give the illusion of a wider window.

Buy Curtains That Are the Correct Length and Width

Length of Curtains

In most cases, you want the bottom of the curtain panels to just graze the floor. Dressing your windows in too-short curtains is a dead giveaway that you didn't measure before you shopped.

Not only is it important to carefully measure beforehand, but also measure from the right spot. If you're installing the curtain brackets above and outside the window molding, make sure to measure from that spot, not the top of the molding.

If you're going for a luxe effect, buy drapes that are a little longer and let them pool on the floor. Either way, make sure to check and double-check the dimensions of the curtains you're buying, whether in-store or online.

Width of Curtains

As a general rule, you want the width of your curtains to be at least one and a half to two times the window's width. The curtain panels should extend a few inches beyond the window, covering part of the wall as well. They should also have some waves for a feeling of fullness. For an even fuller look, opt for more width.

Consider the Maintenance Before Buying

Cleaning Curtains

Before you buy curtains, consider how easy it will be to clean and care for the fabric. A machine-washable curtain will be easy to keep clean (though you might want to grab a lint roller to dust the curtains between washes). A dry clean-only curtain will require a little more effort and money to maintain. Heavy drapes may need to be vacuumed monthly to remove dust and prevent them from trapping odors.

Ironing Curtains

Another consideration before buying curtains: Check the care instructions to see if you can iron or steam them to release wrinkles. You may be able to release wrinkles by washing them and removing them from the dryer as soon as the cycle ends.

Whatever method you use, be sure to spend the 15 minutes needed to de-wrinkle curtains before hanging them. After buying the perfect curtains, you want them to look their best.

Get the Right Hardware

Your curtain rod should complement the type of curtains you've bought. Sheer curtains pair well with a dainty rod. For heavier fabric, invest in a sturdy rod, preferably one made of metal or wood rather than plastic. (The telltale sign of a cheap curtain rod: It sags in the middle.) Tension rods are an excellent solution for rental spaces. However, if you can drill holes in the wall, opt for sturdy brackets so you don't risk the curtains falling down.

The knobs or decorative accents at the ends of curtain rods (called finials) should also blend well with the rest of the room. If your end tables and shelving are metallic or wood, try to get finials of the same material.

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