Defining Curtain Length Rules for Every Style

There are many types of curtain designs and styles and general curtain length rules for each one. To some degree, curtain lengths are a matter of taste.

Curtain Length RulesView in gallery

Still, there are some rules that will help you make sense of each type of curtain and help you decide how to measure their length.

Curtain Length Rules

Curtain length rules depend on what type of curtain you have and the kind of look that you want to achieve. We will consider some different styles and designs for the different types of curtains you will encounter when considering curtain length rules.

Standard Lengths for Panel Curtains and Drapes

Standard Lengths for Panel Curtains and DrapesView in gallery

Many ready made curtains and drapes come in four common lengths of 63 inches, 84 inches, 96 inches, 108 inches. The most common length is 96 inches. You can use these standard curtain lengths “as is”, or hem them to fit the length you need. Also, you can have someone create custom curtains for the length you want. This gives you more flexibility in terms of fabric and pattern too.

Design Tips for Determining Curtain Lengths

When you are determining the length for curtains for windows, you should decide on the look that you want. Most panel drapes and curtains fall to just 1/2 to 1 inch above the floor.

People who prefer a more dramatic and luxurious look will have the curtains puddle on the floor.

However, there are others who should consider curtains that fall right above the window sill. This style would work for curtains in children’s rooms or for curtains that fit within window frames.

Deciding how high to hang curtain rods is another factor. Some people prefer a simple look and wish to hang curtains right above the window frame.

Others want to give their room more height by hanging curtain rods above the window frame. Professional designers will sometimes hang curtains right below the ceiling to draw the eye upwards.

This will make the ceiling appear higher than it is.

Curtain Length Ideas

Here are a few styles to consider when deciding on the length of curtains you want for your space.

Floor to Ceiling Curtains

Floor to Ceiling CurtainsView in gallery
Home Beautiful magazine

Many modern, as well as traditional homes, have floor-to-ceiling windows. Therefore, it makes sense to have window treatments that cover the whole window to give you all the privacy and light control that you need. 

Consider these curtains in this bedroom. These ceiling-to-floor length curtains cover the vast expanse of this window. Curtains for large windows should be measured to ensure complete coverage and full functionality. Therefore, you should measure the length of these curtains from the ceiling to just 1/2 to 1 inch above the floor.

Panel Curtains Hung Above the Window Frame

Panel Curtains Hung Above the Window FrameView in gallery
Jenna Sue Design Co.

You can heighten the look of your room and window treatments if you hang curtains above the window frame. In this way, the curtains will need to be longer than what you would measure by considering the proper length for your window height. 

This kind of look works well in living rooms and family rooms to create a more striking style. Raise curtains to the maximum height below the ceiling or at least four inches above the molding on the windows to create the most custom look.

Curtains That Puddle on the Floor

Curtains That Puddle on the FloorView in gallery
Tidbits & Twine

People who want a more dramatic look will want curtains that puddle on the floor. This style looks well in a historic or formal home. Also, this style works well with curtains of luxurious fabrics like silk or velvet.

While this is an elegant style that looks stunning in some homes, this is not a good choice for people with children or pets as animal dander and dirt will collect at the bottom of the longer curtains.

Short Curtains

Short CurtainsView in gallery
Better Homes and Gardens

There are times when the desired length for curtains will be shorter than floor-length curtains. These instances may be for curtain inside window frames, curtains above a radiator, or curtain panels on a bay window.

In this case, standard curtain lengths will not apply. Rather, you should determine the length measurements according to your unique situation and needs.

Cafe Curtains

Cafe CurtainsView in gallery
Lauren Bless’er House

If you want a curtain that allows in more light, consider cafe curtains. These are half window curtains that you mount on the lower part of the window. These historic style curtains were popular in times past.

However, they have become a much loved style in recent years because of their attractive look and practical style. 

These work very well in a dining room or kitchen where you need short curtains above countertops but still want a view outside. In this case, you would measure the length of the curtains from a place around the middle of the window frame down to the top of the window sill.

Layered Curtains

Layered CurtainsView in gallery
Niki Papadopoulos

When you layer curtains like blackout curtains and sheer curtains, you need to consider the length of both curtains. In some cases, the lengths will be the same, and in others, the sheer curtains should be shorter. Sheers will be shorter if you place them within a window frame.

How to Measure for Curtain Length

  1. First, determine which curtain style you want for your home to create the look you want and allow you to control light and create privacy within your home spaces.
  2. Next, get your measuring tape and measure the right length of your window.
  3. If you want to add some height to the windows, make sure to add a few inches to the overall height measurement from above the window down to 1/2 inch above the floor.
  4. Likewise, if you want curtains to puddle on the floor, make sure to add several inches to the length of your curtains.
  5. In addition, if you want to measure for a cafe curtain, measure from the middle of the window down to the top of the window sill to determine your curtain length. If you want a cafe curtain with a more distinctive look, you can also use longer curtains that cover 2/3 of the window.
  6. If you are using standard curtain lengths, find the height that best works with this final measurement. For example, if your height from above the window down to the floor is 94″, use 96″ inch pre-made curtains. You can either hang the curtain rod 2 inches higher than you first determined, or hem the curtains several inches to the appropriate length.

How to Determine Curtain Width

  1. When considering the length of your curtains, don’t forget that you should determine the width of your curtains to make sure that there is enough fabric to cover the windows.
  2. One good rule of thumb is to make sure that the width of your curtains is 2 to 3 times the width of the window. Therefore, if your window size is 32 inches wide, make sure that both panels together measure at least 64 inches to 96 inches wide. If you want a more luxurious look, consider fuller curtains.

Measuring for Curtains Size: An Example

Here is an example to consider when using standard length rather than custom length curtains. You can apply the same principles to measuring curtains for your windows.

Length

Consider that I have measured my window and it is 5 feet and 2 inches tall (62 inches total). Now, I will measure the distance from the bottom of my window to the floor: 1 foot and 6 inches (18 inches total). Therefore, the total height from the top of my window to the floor is 80 inches. Now, I have decided that I want to hang my curtains several inches above my window to heighten the look of my room and down to 1/2 inch above the floor. Therefore, the best choice for me would be 84 inch curtains.

Width

Next, I need to determine how many panels I need for my curtains. I take my measuring tape and measure the width of the window. It measures 36 inches across. I would like to create a dramatic look with my curtains, so I need at least 108 inches in width. If standard curtains are 54 inches wide, I would need at least one panel per side to equal 108 inches.

Hanging Curtains

There are several ways to hang curtains or drapes, and it depends on your window style and the look you want to achieve when determining which method to use.


Tension Rod

A tension rod works well for cafe curtains or sheer curtains that you place within a window frame. This method does not require any tools. Instead, use the small rod with a spring mechanism and fit inside the frame. However, these rods do not work well with heavy or luxurious fabrics as they will cause the rod to bow.


Curtain Rod with Brackets

A curtain rod with brackets is the most versatile option for hanging curtains. You can mount the curtain rod anywhere you need above the window. Therefore, this method works with standard curtain lengths as you can vary the rod height to complement various curtain lengths and window heights. If you don’t have tools or don’t want to drill holes in your wall, use brackets that you can put onto the window frame like the Kwik Hang brackets.


Curtain Track

Curtain tracks work well if you want to mount the curtains from the ceiling. This is a continuous track that you mount on the ceiling that has tiny hooks inside the track. Use curtain rings to mount the curtains onto the hooks inside the track.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the correct length for curtains?

Many wonder where you let curtains fall when determining their length, but it varies for each situation and style. The most popular look is curtains that fall to right above the floor. However, there are styles like cafe curtains that are supposed to fall right above the window sill. The full height of the curtains depends on the size of your windows and how low you want your curtains to hang. In general, a common rule of thumb is to measure a half inch above the window down to just above the floor. This will be the most common length for curtains.

How much longer should curtains be than windows?

The most common length for curtains is that they should fall just an inch or two above the floor. If you have a cafe curtain, it should fall just above the window sill. There are some special cases like curtains that fall to meet radiators and these should be determined on a case by case basis.

How far should curtains sit off the floor?

They should be at least 1/2 to 1 inch off the floor in order to allow you to clean under them and so that they don’t collect dust.

How long should curtains be for 9 ft ceilings?

It depends on the look you want. To create an attractive look, choose curtains that are at least 96 inches. If you want a style that is even more dramatic, you can choose curtains that are 108 inches that reach from the floor to the ceiling.

Is it OK if my curtains don't touch the floor?

Yes, most curtains do not touch the floor. Rather, they are at least 1/2 to 1 inch above the floor. However, some people like curtains that puddle on the floor or “kiss” the floor if they have a formal or historic style home.

Conclusion

It is difficult to understand all the complicated curtain length rules for every situation.

Still, while there are general rules of thumb that we can apply, each situation is distinct and should be determined on a case-by-case basis. After all, your needs and style are different from others.

Consider all the factors to determine the curtain length that will work best for you.