9 Must-Know Rules for Hanging Curtains and Shades

Modern living room

Brooke Holm / Trunk Archive

Just like quality lighting and hardware are sometimes referred to as the accessorizing element of a room, curtains are like the perfect blazer that completes an outfit. Without curtains, a room can feel unfinished—and in addition to their decorative benefits, curtains and shades also offer a number of practicalities. By using the right length and proper mounting techniques, window treatments can offer privacy, frame a worthy view (and hide an underwhelming one), diffuse outdoor light, provide insulation, and protect your favorite décor from the sun.

That said, a well-designed room deserves more than a simple set of plastic blinds or ready-made window dressings. When it comes to curtains, customization is key; the same way a professionally tailored blazer makes all the difference in an outfit. There are a few basic tips to know before hanging curtains and shades in your home, from rules of measuring length to inside and outside mounts. However, each window is different, and they all require specific attention.

Keep scrolling to learn the must-know tips about how to hang sheer curtains, blackout material designs, and even your current set of blinds to upgrade their style.

01 of 09

Let the Light In

Anders Schønnemann via Kinfolk

Anders Schønnemann via Kinfolk

Unless you’re designing a bedroom, you probably don’t need blackout shades. Instead, pick sheer fabrics that let the light in and create a natural, breezy look. Sheer Belgian linen is a great material to achieve this look. On the other hand, heavier fabrics like velvet are a better option for privacy—so combine the two in a layered effect to leave both options open in your space. Heavier window treatments can also help insulate in colder climates or older buildings (goodbye, drafts!)

02 of 09

Separate the Panels

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

How do you deal with multiple windows spread out across one large wall? Try extending an extra-wide curtain rod from wall to wall. Hang multiple panels across the rod to create a softening repetition effect, and measure the overall length to ensure each panel can cover a whole window. When it's dark outside and the lights are on in your home, you'll want the option to pull your curtains entirely shut to ensure privacy.

03 of 09

Adopt the Roman Shade

Thomas Loof/Trunk Archive

Thomas Loof/Trunk Archive

Roman shades are the perfect solution when floor-to-ceiling curtains are not an option. If your windows are over the kitchen sink, above a bathroom counter or bathtub, or behind a radiator, it's not practical to extend curtains to the floor—but the Roman shade is an elegant piece of décor that can instantly upgrade your space. Relaxed Roman shades provide timelessly chic results to tie your room's design together.

04 of 09

Match Your Curtains to Your Walls

Jonas Ingerstedt

Jonas Ingerstedt

On the opposite end of the spectrum from patterned accent curtains, minimalist designers will rejoice at curtains tinted the same color as the walls. By choosing curtain materials that match your room's shade, the window dressings will blend in with the décor in an effortless, foolproof style. Here, the curtain rod is designed with an outside mount around the window frame to let in more light and make the window appear larger.

Follow the classic designer rule of thumb: Hang curtains as high and wide as possible to make windows appear larger.

05 of 09

Hide the Hardware

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

There are certain instances where curtains don't work on the outside of window frames (particularly when large windows are concerned). While outside mounting is most common, try an inside mount to conceal the hardware in your windows for a minimalist look. This small detail can have a huge impact on the look of a space. Use outside mounts for a luxurious look and fuller coverage, or inside mounts for a sleeker, more modern feel.

06 of 09

Use Curtains as Walls

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

Think beyond the exterior windows when considering curtains. Your window dressings can also serve as clever space separators: Use curtains to separate two rooms, or to define separate areas in a studio apartment. If you're not a fan of the view beyond your window frames, you can also style a curtain wall over your exterior windows (extending along the entire wall) for a chic design that still lets in natural light.

07 of 09

Go Rustic

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

If you're planning to hang shades underneath layered curtains, opt for natural materials. This bohemian style pairs well with bright white materials like the airy, flowy curtains styled in this living room. Natural shades look great mounted on the inside of a window frame—as opposed to Roman shades, which are usually best designed with an outside mount.

08 of 09

Do Patterned Curtains Right

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

If you want to go down the patterned route, hang curtains as high as possible and plenty wide so they frame the window when opened. Because you'll be working with maximalist prints, visually extending the space around your windows helps to keep things feeling clean and airy. Match colors in the materials to accents around your room for a cohesive, polished finish.

Insert weights inside the hems of your curtains to make them hang straighter.

09 of 09

Embrace the Pool

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

This rule is not for the neat freaks among us. For a more relaxed look, hang your curtains at a height that allows them to pool two to three inches on the floor. It can create a beautiful carefree effect with an effortless bohemian style. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to stick to the expert advice, interior designers recommend hanging your curtains no more than one centimeter from the floor. Curtains hung too far from the floor can make a space feel smaller—so don't be afraid to spring for those extra-long linens you've had your eyes on.

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