Curtains are one of your best friends for completely changing a room, adding that one missing accent, or revitalizing a bland window. But here’s a secret: finding the right colors, textures, and design won’t do you any good if your curtains are too short, too long, or aren’t the right size for the window or windows you need!
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Think of curtains like clothing. You might have a high quality garment like a shirt or a great pair of pants, but if they’re too small, too large, or don’t complement your body the right way, it doesn’t matter how much quality and beauty went into the clothing: they won’t look right at all!
Whether you’re using curtains for a background accent that decorates your windows or something big and dramatic that becomes the centerpiece of your room, you need to have the right length of curtain to make your space perfect. Here, you’ll learn about which lengths are best for each window situation, rules of the curtain game, and curtain no-no’s to watch out for.
Standard Curtain Lengths
The biggest and most base-level question for curtains has to do with their length. And standard curtains today come in five sizes: 63 inches (think, the height of an average woman), 84 inches, 96 inches, 108 inches, and 120 inches (think, the height of a standard basketball goal). In terms of width, curtains are usually 48 inches (four feet) wide, with some exceptions.
So, now that you know the standard curtain lengths, the next logical question is, “How long do your curtains need to be for your room?
There’s no quick answer to this question just like there’s no quick answer to the question, “How long should my shirt be?” Why is there no easy answer? Because in both situations (curtains and shirts), it all comes back to the style you’re looking to achieve with your decoration.
Let’s look at some of the different curtain positioning styles.
Curtain decoration styles
As its name implies, this style of curtain leaves the bottom of the curtain just an inch or so above the floor or carpet. This style is nice because it can allow a curtain to hang without any breaking in the curtain. This works especially well for taller windows and taller rooms.
This is a type of “float” but even more: in this style, the curtains are touching the floor or carpet, but just barely. They’re literally “kissing” the floor (think, a light kiss, not a deep, my-face-in-yours kind!). This style is hard to get right and requires some serious knowledge with a measuring tape! To get the curtain kissing the floor without making a “curtain puddle,” you’ll also need to measure the rods, rings, and everything else. Curtain styling is a game of centimeters!
In this style, the curtains you’re using have a little more length, so they spread into a kind of light “puddle” across your floor or carpet. This is the curtain equivalent of a trailing wedding dress, designed to showcase the beauty, texture, and fabric of your curtain. It has a hint of formality and romance, of times of years past, and can be very elegant when done in the right room and situation.
It’s important to remember, however, that the puddle-style for curtains has an obvious downside: by constantly being on the ground, they pick up dirt and other undesirable substances from the floor. They’re also somewhat difficult to maneuver, so it’s best to use them more for show than for function, and you should especially avoid using them where people are constantly walking around them (the experience of repairing a curtain rod and torn curtain because someone stepped on it and tore it down is a very unpleasant one).
Rules for the length of your curtains
It’s all in the numbers when it comes to getting your curtain length just right. And of course, to get your measurements on point, you’ll need a sturdy measuring tape with plenty of length.
To calibrate the right measurements for your curtains, start by putting your measuring tape at either the top or inside corner inside the frame of your window. If you already have a place for your curtain rod, start your measurement from where the rod will be, not the window. Use a pencil marking if you need to find and keep the exact placement for your starting point. And if you’re measuring using a ladder, make sure to have someone behind you (and preferably someone else on either side if you have enough people! Your safety is always most important.
Once you have your spot, pull the measuring tape down to the length you want, using this curtain length guide.
For the Float style
Measure to less than one inch above the carpet or wood. This is important; any more than one inch, and you’ll lose the “floating” effect, and it will just look silly. It genuinely has to be a little bit less than one inch to work.
For the Kiss style
Drag your measuring tape from the rod all the way to the floor. Don’t extend too far down; just let the tape become flush with the floor. Keep in mind that if you’re using rings, they needs to be included in the length measurement.
For the Puddle style
Measure all the way down to be flush with the floor, mark the length, and then add an extra 12-16 inches depending on how much of a puddle effect you want to create.
Getting your curtains just right
Here are a few tips to make sure your curtains fall just the right way. For most curtains, anything less than 96 inches generally will not be sufficient to give your windows the right coverage (unless your room itself is pretty low). You can make your own custom-length curtains if needed.
Make sure your curtain rods are long enough as well. As a rule, curtain rods should go about six inches or so past the line of your window.
When it comes to window size, as a general tip and calculation, your curtains should be 2.5 times as wide as your window. So, if your window is 2 feet, 3 feet, 4 feet, or 6 feet wide, your curtains for these would be 5 feet, 7.5 feet, 10 feet, and 15 feet wide, respectively.