How to Hang Curtains: A Basic Guide

Curtains (or other window treatments) are like the shoes of a room – they complete the room and either add a flourish of undeniable style and taste or they deaden everything else good. There are some tricks of the trade, some dos and don’ts if you will, about how to hang curtains for optimum form and function.

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Let’s discuss some strategies for hanging curtains beautifully.

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How to Hang Curtains for Maximizing Light

Curtains are important for controlling the amount of natural light in a space. These days, trends lean toward less curtain and more window. One way to achieve a good balance is to install curtains with light-filtering options. In this living room, for example, a double curtain rod allows for filtering light. Both curtains can be drawn back to allow maximum natural light. A sheer first curtain layer can be left over the window to filter out harsh sunlight while still maintaining natural light and a (somewhat blurred) view.

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Both curtain layers can be closed to block out the majority of the natural light (and views), if desired.

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Tip for Maximizing Light: Hang curtains so that, when they are opened, they block a minimal amount (or none) of the actual sides of the window.

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Tip for Maximizing Light: Opt for thinner or loose-weave curtain fabrics to allow light to filter through, regardless of whether the curtain is closed or open.

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How to Hang Curtains for Privacy

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Curtains are important for providing privacy, particularly at night when the lights inside your home can put you in a rather fishbowl-esque position from the perspective of the darkened outside. Hang curtains in such a way that they are easily maneuvered each night to be closed for privacy – no one wants to spend 15 minutes wrestling with a stubborn curtain; eventually, you just won’t close it at all, and your privacy is then nonexistent. This smaller side window that flanks the living room’s larger picture window are in awkward-to-reach areas, so the curtains themselves can be let down from their daytime hooks with the flick of a finger. This is an excellent way to maintain privacy.

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Tip for Maintaining Privacy: Make sure your curtains are easily accessible and easy to close. Even something as small as a narrow walkway by the window so you can pull the curtains closed each evening will make a big difference in maintaining your privacy. Also, a good rule of thumb is to use curtain fabric that is about twice as wide as the window it’s covering. When this isn’t possible (like in this living room, where going bulky on the curtains would infringe on at least one window’s view), use as much fabric as you can to adequately and comfortably cover the window when closed.

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How to Hang Curtains for Style

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Depending on your room and the purpose of the curtain, your style may come through in different ways. For example, a kitchen curtain probably won’t be floor-length. But bedroom and living room curtains might very well be, and those are the curtains we’ll address here.

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Choose a curtain rod that extends past the sides of your window so that when you hang your curtains and then open them, they won’t be blocking a significant chunk of your view and/or natural light.

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Choose a curtain fabric that works seamlessly with your wall. This helps the window area look and feel larger, because there’s not a significant visual break between wall-curtain-window.

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Hang curtains high. This can’t be overstated. Mounting the curtain rod closer to the ceiling help to make the room feel taller, because it draws the eye upward. If you don’t want to, or can’t, mount the curtain rod right next to the ceiling, a good rule of thumb is to mount it at least 4”-6” above the top of the window frame.

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What’s more, when the curtain rod (and, therefore, curtain itself) is tall, it makes the entire window space feel larger than it actually is. The reality might be that your window takes up only a third of the actual wall space behind the curtains, but if the curtains are mounted high, our eyes will translate that upper wall space above the window as still “window space.”

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Mount all curtains in the same room to be at the same height, regardless of the size or placement of the windows. This visual continuity makes the entire space feel more seamless and spacious.

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Just as you’ll do well to hang your curtains closer to the ceiling than not, you might want to consider their length as part of the style equation. Dangling curtains that hit, say, a foot off the ground resemble the awkward look of unintentionally highwater pants. These living room curtains are about 2” or 3” overhung onto the floor, which helps them pool nicely on the floor itself.

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Of course, pooling curtains might not work for some families or some spaces; in this case, the curtains can just touch the floor or even be up about a half an inch so they’re not dragging. But you want the visual effect to be one of ceiling-to-floor for maximum style.

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Tip for Maximizing Style: Remember that your curtains are a wonderful instrument for integrating color, texture, and pattern into your space. Take advantage of this, even if it’s in the subtlest of ways.

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How to Hang Curtains for Functionality

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You may find yourself in a position that requires certain curtain constraints. Perhaps you have a baseboard heater under each window, which means your heat will get trapped in the curtain if it’s covered all night. You might be able to overcome this by opting for longer curtains that, when closed, you can then pull open just on the bottom half to allow for functional and necessary air flow.

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Tip for Maximizing Functionality: Your window may be large enough to require a center curtain rod support (or more). One challenge that this instance presents comes when there are no centered support beams. To manage this, you can paint a 1×6 board the same color as your wall and mount it, screwing into the wall support boards. The screws might be off-centered, but it doesn’t matter because you’ll cover and paint over them. Then you can center your curtain rod support and mount it easily.

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Tip for Maximizing Functional Symmetry:Similarly, you might not have wall framing options that are symmetrical on the sides of your window. No problem. Simply paint (the same color as your wall color) and mount two 1×6 boards that are long enough to screw into two wall support boards symmetrically (one on each side of the window at the mounting height), then mount your curtain rod side supports onto those boards.

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You can’t even see where the board screws are, because they’ve been filled and painted. And even though the screws on the left side of the window are in different places than on the board on the right side of the window, the curtain rod mount is positioned symmetrically and identically.