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Curtain Lengths: How Long Should Your Curtains Be?

Curtain lengths: How long should my curtains be?
Photo: Lidy Dipert

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

Floor length curtains
Source: Little Green Notebook

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.

Floor length curtains
Source: A Cup of Jo; Photography: Amy Moss

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.

 

Floor-to-Ceiling Curtains

Floor to ceiling curtains
Source: Lonny; Photography: Carol Viziri

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. 

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Sheer floor-to-ceiling curtains
Source: AVharrison Publishing

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.

 

Short Curtains

Short curtains
Source:  Pinterest

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.

Sill-length curtains
Source: Style at Home; Photography: Christy Wright

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

Cafe curtains in kitchen
Source: Heidi Piron

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.

Cafe curtains in bathroom
Source: Decor Pad

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

Puddling curtains
Source: Amber Interiors

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!

Puddled curtains
Source: Blinds.com

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. 


Curtain Lengths 101
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So, what are the best curtain lengths for your space? Are you Team Shortie? Puddler? Somewhere in between? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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Paula Marshall on Aug 08, 2018:

I keep looking for a simple answer to a simple question, and it never gets answered! I want to put curtains over the window IN MY BACK DOOR and no one tells me. I don't want that ugly pulled-tight thing that has a rod top and bottom, either. I guess I'll just let them hang 3 or 4 inches longer than where the window ends.


Patti on Oct 28, 2015:

hi

i have electric baseboard radiators in my living room. I wanted to hang off white sheer panels on either side of my picture window up a bit higher and wider than window. what length will be ok? just above heater or just below window sill? any suggestions?


Adrianne on Jun 25, 2015:

Q:  I have a room in my shotgun house with windows of two different lenghts; one is 42" and one is 63."  Should I use two different lengths or the same long lenght for both?


Kelly on Jun 11, 2014:

We have a sunroom with 8 foot windows. I purchased long curtains that I want to hang just above floor. However, I would have to hang the decorative rod at least a foot away from molding at the top of the window. Can this be done or is it a big no no?


Carol on Mar 14, 2014:

I am having a porch enclosed with insulation and six 56" windows.  The ceiling is low on one side, vaulted up to the other side an additional 2 feet.  The room will be heated and cooled,  a 9 x 11 foot area, exit door and slider into the home.  I will have 2 recliner chairs, TV and end tables.  The floor is painted cement.  Will 63 inch drapes be wrong?  The only other option is 84 length and I don't want to hem them.  Never had to think about this before!  Help!


Sally on Oct 21, 2013:

Is it ok for the curtain to be 3/4 the length of the window . I like it that way with a scalloped shade.


M on Jul 13, 2013:

If I use short panels, do they skim the window sill or pass it?


JOSEPHINE COLLIER on Jun 09, 2013:

I HAVE TAB TOP CURTAINS 66" X90" HANGING ON A POLE,BUT I WOULD LIKE TO CHANGE TO PLEATED CURTAINS.THE PROBLEM IS THERE IS ONLY ABOUT 9" WALL SPACE BEFORE MY FRENCH WINDOWS AND THE EXISTING TAB TOPS COVER ABOUT 6" OF THE WINDOW.WOULD A 90X90" PLEATED CURTAIN TAKE UP TOO MUCH OF THE WINDOW WHEN PULLED BACK OR COULD I HAVE A 66" WIDTH OF PLEATED CURTAIN BUT NOT HAVE THEM GATHERED. i AM 72 YEARS OLD AND HAVIING TO GET UP LADDERS TO UNDO FINIALS AND UNDO SCREWS    TO  LOOSEN POLE TO ALLOW REMOVAL OF CURTAINS IS GETTING TOO MUCH FOR  ME TO DO


Jenny Mertes on Aug 22, 2012:

Help me please - our new home has a 20-ft ceiling in the living room with four enormous windows - two on the left (stacked one above the other) and two on the right (stacked one above the other), and no draperies. The previous owner put one rod above the upper window on each side (about 18' off the floor) and hung an 18' length of fabric on each side of each bank of windows. I have no idea whether to repeat that treatment, and if so, how to even get up to the 18' level to hang a rod. I can just imagine hiring a handyman with a 20' ladder and clearing the room of furniture so he can get to the windows, then trying to find enough matching fabric in 20' lengths. Yikes. Anybody else have/solve this dilemma?


Barbara on Aug 22, 2012:

I'd like to hang panel drapes in my master bedroom with 12-foot ceilings.  The windows are five feet tall. The distance between the ceiling and top of windows is 4 feet.  The distance between bottom of windows and floor is three feet.  How far above the windows shall I place the curtain rods?


Jeannie on May 01, 2012:

I love highly hung white, billowy curtains, tied in a knot and slightly puddled.


JulieBaby on Apr 01, 2012:

Those of us who have radiators have to adjust our drapery expectations. In my living room, two of the windows are above radiators and one is not. Floor-length draperies draped  over the radiators would look bad, so we stick to café length curtains here.


Lina-bee on Mar 30, 2012:

Ooh, thanks for the ideas!
 


penny on Mar 30, 2012:

floor length, floor length, floor length. The end. I can't stand stumpy curtains! I grew up with a mother and grandmother who felt the same, and none of us ever had a drawback. Children will use them as climbing ropes? How about we just teach the children not to climb on things.


craftmel on Mar 29, 2012:

I love this type of thing! Daughter of a window covering professional here... so I'm a drapery snob! Personally, I could never do the puddle panels.  And hanging higher and wider is always best for the average window!  On that note, having more than one panel width makes a big difference too.


My girls' bedroom has short, window sill panels, though, because a) I was using fabric I had on hand and didn't have enough for floor-length and b) we were planning on putting a bed next to it.  It works great now that the bed is in the room.


Don't get me started on drop-cloth drapes, though. {shudder} ;)


MollyMC on Mar 29, 2012:

@Lina-bee: You got me thinking, so I looked for some vaulted ceiling curtain inspiration. I think pretty much anything goes!


http://pinterest.com/pin/47569339783583247/


http://pinterest.com/pin/220535712972321539/


http://pinterest.com/pin/187814246929678166/


However, in this example, i would have lined up the curtain height with the height of the white molding on the left. http://pinterest.com/pin/83175924338092588/


MollyMC on Mar 29, 2012:

Bruno, we switched up our Living Room curtains from tension rods within the windows to one long rod hung just below the ceiling. It's an amazing difference, I agree!


MollyMC on Mar 29, 2012:

BethS, our drapes in our dining room are a bit billowy. Not to the extent you see in those French photos, but somewhere in between. 


You can see them here: Molly's Dining Room


Anyway, during my last cleaning spree, I found a dead lizard behind them! WHOOPS! So they do have their drawbacks, as you mentioned. ;) 


MollyMC on Mar 29, 2012:

Lina-bee, I think you are on the right track with the clips for easy washing! As for your high ceilings---what a great problem to have! I would say, if you have a baseline of another, shorter wall in the room, to use the height of the break between it and the ceiling to set the height of the curtains on the vaulted wall. If you don't have such a wall, then I'd say just go 8 feet from the floor, so 96" curtains.


As for width, I've seen some great DIY horizontal stripe curtains that can help give the illusion of a wider space. 


 


Lina-bee on Mar 29, 2012:

Very timely. I'm delaying curtain decisions until I take care of new decor to match these walls, but I've had curtains on my mind all month. Mine are at high risk for cat fur so they all need to be washable and easy to remove (clips instead of rod pocket). I think it'll be floor-length for all the tall windows and sill length for the short one.
Also, three windows are in rooms with high vaulted ceilings, which is something NONE of the posts on "hang your curtain rod at the ceiling!" have taken into account.  I have eight feet of wall above the actual six-foot window -- there's absolutely no need to create an illusion of height here, width and breadth, yes, but not height.


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