How To Hang Curtains Without Covering Trim

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If you have intricate, gorgeous trim around your windows, it’s totally understandable if you want to show it off. Who wants to cover a work of art with a ho-hum fabric curtain? So how can you hang curtains without covering the trim?

You can hang curtains without covering the trim by:

  1. Using a tension rod to mount a curtain inside the window frame.
  2. Hanging the curtains on a rod that is closer to the ceiling and much wider than the frame. If curtains are open, the trim is still visible.
  3. Skipping curtains; opt for window treatments like blinds or shutters instead.

Keep reading to learn more about each of these options – when they work and when they don’t. We’ll also cover what you should know about the best placement of curtain rods, how long curtains should be, where the tiebacks go, and more. You’ll be able to pick the perfect solution for your window treatment after this article walks you through everything that you need to consider first.

A hands of man installing curtains over window, How To Hang Curtains Without Covering Trim

1. Using A Tension Rod To Mount The Curtain Inside The Frame

With a tension rod, you can brace the rod against the hard sides of the window frame. As a result, you can hang a curtain that covers the window but doesn’t block the trim at all.

This is technically an option, but it’s definitely one to proceed with caution on. There are just too many unspoken rules about the proper placement for curtain rods and expected curtain length. When curtains are unusually short or don’t hang above the trim far enough, it tends to be very unpleasant for the viewer. 

Hanging curtains is a well-established method of decorating, and it usually fits relatively strict guidelines. People are used to expecting them to look a certain way, and this isn’t it. There may be times when you can make it look good, but think it out first.

What Is The Proper Placement Of Curtain Rods?

Most people wonder how high the curtain rod should go above the window. But actually, the proper placement is about more than just the window frame. 

It’s more important to place the curtain rod so that the curtain ends at the right spot. This typically means ending right at the floor, give or take an inch. But your own personal style can play a role in this.

For example, floating curtains fall just above the floor, stopping half an inch or so above. This is a more casual, relaxed style.

On the other end, puddled curtains have excess material (6 inches or more) that literally pools on the floor for a striking, romantic look. You can read more about the different styles and looks for curtains here: “Should Curtains Be Long Or Short?

Empty apartment window with curtain

Knowing where you want your curtains to end helps you know where exactly the curtain rod needs to hang. As a general rule, the curtain rod usually goes about halfway between the ceiling and the top of the window frame. But if you need to move the rod a few inches to make standard curtains hang at the correct length, there’s no harm. 

And there are a few exceptions to the rule. Nine out of ten times, curtains look best when they hang to the floor. But there are some times when they stop around the window sill instead.

Should Curtains Touch The Floor Or Windowsill?

There are two basic reasons to have curtains that end around the windowsill rather than the floor. These are:

  • When long curtains are inconvenient or unhygienic – for example, long curtains in a bathroom that touch the floor might be hard to keep sanitary. 
  • When long curtains don’t fit – like when a kitchen counter or a radiator would block long curtains anyway. 

So if there’s furniture or another obstacle in the way, you can stick with short curtains instead. And definitely go short if it’s the only way to have curtains that look clean, nice, and hygienic. But besides these few exceptions, most curtains look best when they touch the floor. 

And definitely, definitely pick one or the other. Short curtains should always end around the windowsill – about three inches below is the max. Having curtains that hang well below the windowsill, but at the same time stop high above the floor, just look confused. It’s jarring and aesthetically displeasing, immediately making the eye feel like the curtain is just out of place or poorly sized. 

2. Should Curtains Touch The Ceiling?

Curtains don’t need to touch the ceiling. In fact, hanging the curtain rod to be about halfway between the ceiling and the trim is more traditional. But some people do prefer the look of floor-to-ceiling curtains. And if you’re trying to show off your trim, leaving lots of space between the trim and the curtains helps.

Tall curtains that reach all the way to the ceiling lengthen the walls. This creates the illusion of more space and taller ceilings. So, while it’s not necessary to touch the ceiling, it may be the right look for you. Read more here: ‘How To Hang Curtains From A Ceiling [5 Steps].”

How High Should Curtains Be Above Trim?

There isn’t a specific rule as to how high curtains should be above the trim. It’s more important to make sure that the curtains aren’t too short. As already said, short curtains tend to look gawky and out of place, as though you just measured out the wrong size.

But going high to leave the trim visible is definitely an acceptable choice. It can be a negative to go too close to the trim, but going high is rarely a problem. The eye already tends to expect curtains to begin about 4 to 6 inches above the trim. Hanging too low leaves an awkward space by the ceiling that stands out. Plus, a tall curtain draws the eye up and makes the ceiling appear higher.

Scandinavian interior design living room with beige colored furniture and wooden elements

Where Do You Hang Brackets When Hanging Curtains?

Brackets go at whatever height above the trim you’ve already decided. Whether you’ve decided to hang curtains from near the ceiling or halfway between the ceiling and the trim, draw a pencil mark to help visualize where the brackets go.

In addition, the brackets should be about 4 to 6 inches from the side of the window frame. Using this height and width will get your curtain rod in the perfect placement. 

Where Should Tie Backs Go On Curtains?

Tiebacks for curtains normally are about 3 inches from the edge of the window. Most commonly, they’re also about 1/3 of the curtain height from the floor. Using a 72-inch curtain, for example, 1/3 is 24 inches. This means the tieback goes about 24 inches above the floor. 

However, this is definitely a personal choice, subject to your own preference. Some people prefer a fuller curtain below the tie back, hanging it closer to the halfway spot on the curtain.

If you aren’t quite sure, make a loop of duct tape as a mock tie back, trying different looks until you find the one for you. This way, you can determine how each style helps or hides the window trim.

View of garden from inside house with French doors leading to a courtyard kitchen garden

3. Use An Inside Window Treatment

Using a small curtain might not be easy, but using a different window treatment altogether can have great results! Pick something like shutters, blinds, or shades for a great look that won’t cover an inch of trim.

For example, a simple window shade like this one mounts inside the window frame. It filters light and offers privacy but keeps your trim visible:

Click here to see this window shade on Amazon.

You might think of shutters as belonging outside the house, but options like these can mount on the inside instead. It’s a unique style without being overwhelming.

Click here to see this shutter on Amazon.

In Summary

If you need curtains but don’t want to cover up nice decorative trim, there are ways to have the best of both worlds. You can pick a different window treatment that mounts inside the window frame, such as blinds, shutters, or shades.

Similarly, you can use a tension rod to mount a curtain inside the frame, but a small window-sized curtain may not look as pleasing as other window treatments. You can also use a curtain and simply mount the rod very high above the trim, and much wider than the window, leaving room for the trim to be seen when the curtains are pulled back. 

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