Choosing the right curtain lengths is a necessity when you’re decorating any room. You need to find curtains that are the appropriate length and size for the window and the space, whether it’s a bedroom that needs blackout shades, a living room that calls for dramatic drapery, or a breakfast nook where you want a little privacy.
“There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when determining what’s best for a window or series of windows being treated,” says Chris Jovanelly, senior interior designer at Est Est Interior Design. “Ceiling height, window height, architectural details, and specific design intent for the space are all very important considerations when establishing the finished drapery length.”
With that in mind, we gathered guidance and tips from Jovanelly and Haley Weidenbaum, the Los Angeles–based interior designer who founded the custom window treatment company Everhem, on how to choose curtain lengths that elevate your space.
Measure the Window and Ceiling Heights
Finding the right curtain length is easy when you take into consideration the height of both your window and ceiling, says Weidenbaum. Start by measuring from the floor to top of the window and then from the top of the window to the ceiling. (The top of the window to ceiling is referred to as the available mounting space.)
“Ideally you want to mount [curtains] 10 inches above your window or 3 inches below your ceiling. By placing your hardware high above your window it will make the room look much taller,” says Weidenbaum. “To determine the length of your curtains, add together the floor to top of window measurement plus mount height desired. Deduct for hardware by measuring the outer diameter of your curtain ring.”
If you don’t have 10 inches above your window (or three inches below your ceiling), or just want to consider another option, consider mounting your curtain rod at the middle point between the top of the window and the ceiling, suggests Jovanelly. “If the window is 10 feet high and the ceiling is 12 feet, then that point would be 11 feet,” he says.
Of course, all rooms have their quirks, and there are cases when neither formula works. “If there is a large crown molding or architectural detail like a beam, then this might make me want to reconsider the 11 feet—or it might not, as each situation is unique.”
Think About the Room
Curtain length isn’t all strictly math, though. A curtain for a bathroom window is generally smaller than one for a living room or dining area. “A shorter curtain is considered a café curtain—perfect in the kitchen or bathroom or smaller windows,” says Weidenbaum, whose company just launched custom café curtains in sheer linen. “Typically these types of curtains are mounted in the middle of the window, allowing natural light to pour into your kitchen or bathroom while still offering privacy on the bottom portion.”
Determine the Width of the Window
You’ll want to measure the width of your window from outside edge or trim to outside edge or trim, says Weidenbaum. To do this, measure the available space on the right and left of your window so you can extend the hardware beyond the width of the window.
“I recommend your hardware extend about eight inches on either side of your window so your drapery has somewhere to ‘stack’ up when the panels are completely open,” says Weidenbaum.
Calculate the Curtain Length and Width
“Add the width numbers together to get the area to cover and hardware length, and add the length numbers together to get your mount height and panel length,” advises Weidenbaum.
It’s important to take your time when it comes to choosing curtain lengths. If you’re still unsure, consult an interior designer or window treatment expert (such as a local seamstress) to get personalized advice tailored to your needs.
Casey Clark is a freelance journalist who specializes in beauty, health, and style-related commerce content. She graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in journalism. Her work has been published in Women’s Health, Forbes, Better Homes & Gardens, and more.