Is there a "right" option for curtain lengths? That depends on who you ask, and often just asking the question can leave you more confused than you were before. The long and short of it is (no pun intended): it's up to you. But we're here to help as you answer the question, "How long should my curtains be?" We'll be taking a critical look at curtain lengths, tall and small. What side are you on?
Basic Curtain Lengths: To the Floor
Let's start with what's probably the most common of the curtain lengths: to the floor. This is the standard length for hanging curtains - either hitting the floor exactly or hovering a half inch off the ground. Sheer white curtains hung like the ones above (from Little Green Notebook) and the ones below (via A Cup of Jo) are both modern and classic. The curtain lengths make the ceilings seem taller and the room more polished, maybe even a bit formal.
Cons to floor length? They may make your room look too formal for your liking. Dust will inevitably collect around the bottoms. Also, children may be more likely to grab them and use them as a climbing rope. If you're asking yourself, "Should curtains go to the floor?," and kids, pets, and dust aren't a concern, then floor length is probably your best bet.
You may have heard that hanging your curtains from the ceiling will make your living space appear taller. But how? Visually, your eye tends to follow lines. Whether it's the double yellow line on the highway, or the walkway to your front door, your eye is drawn towards (and up) pathways. By hanging your curtains from the highest point on the wall, your eye travels up the line, causing you to notice that there is height in the space you are standing in.
If your living space has high ceilings already, compliment them with tall curtain lengths. Floor-to-ceiling curtains can also help to divide space, whether you're tucking away a window seat (like the floor-to-ceiling curtains via Lonny) or cutting a whole room in half. Heads up: The worst thing you can do when hanging curtains from the ceiling is to hang them too short. The heightening trick-of-the-eye doesn't work well if the curtain line abruptly cuts off before it hits the ground.
Then there's the other end of the curtain lengths spectrum: short curtains. Visually speaking, high-water style is not the most appealing way to hang curtains. The shorter length can appear dated. Also, it can cut the visual height of your room in half. From a purely practical standpoint, however, short curtains are sometimes the best option. In the home, it seems like many parents choose shorter curtains for kids' rooms, probably to avoid the whole Tarzan situation, or just to limit sticky fingers from touching the window treatments. You may also be forced to hang short curtains by the presence of heat-producing radiators or heaters.
If you hang short curtains, aim to hit a perpendicular mark on the wall. For instance, the curtain lengths should meet at the top of the baseboard, or the bottom of the windowsill.
Café curtains are fairly common where there's a window sill over, say, a sink in a kitchen. Or, in their namesake, cafés, where you wouldn't want curtains dragging the floor of such a busy, public place.
Café curtains are hung usually at the halfway point of a window, or on the bottom pane of a two-part window. They're great for when you need a bit of privacy (like in this bathroom pictured above), but don't necessarily want to block out all the natural light coming through the window. Because café curtains are short and cute, they can give a room a more casual vibe.
Breaking at the Floor
We've discussed short curtains, and curtains that hit the floor perfectly. What curtain lengths are left? Long curtains. The more billowy a curtain becomes as it breaks at the floor, the more dramatic it will look. A simple "kiss" to the ground, like the curtains pictured above (via Amber Interiors), adds a touch of flair to this otherwise simple window treatment. This option is similar in style to floor length, but will require more care - dust bunnies like to live in the folds of the billowing curtains!
Last, there's the most extreme curtain length: puddled. This is a typical French look (think the Rococo period), and is most successful with high ceilings and, usually, expensive fabric. Typically silks are going to billow the best, being both lightweight and a natural fiber.
Obviously, this look adds a lot of glam to even the simplest decor. But, you really need to have the right architecture to pull it off.