9 Must-Know Rules for Hanging Curtains and Shades

Updated 11/08/18

Just like quality lighting and hardware are commonly known as the jewelry of a room, curtains are like the perfect blazer that polishes off an outfit. Without curtains, a room can feel unfinished and, dare we say, a little frumpy. That said, a window deserves more than simply a set of plastic blinds or ready-made window treatments. When it comes to curtains, customization is key, the same way a professionally tailored blazer makes all the difference in an outfit.

When it comes to hanging curtains and shades, there are a few basic rules to follow. Certain rules are well-known among the design community and even décor aficionados. For instance, we know that hanging curtains as high and wide as possible to make windows appear larger is a classic rule of thumb. However, each window is different and requires its own specific attention, and that’s when we come in with plenty of inspiration to help you navigate the world of window coverings. Keep scrolling for our favorite tricks for hanging curtains and shades.

Let the Light In

Hanging Curtains
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 great to achieve this look.

Pottery Barn Belgian Flax Linen Sheer Drape $79
Shop

Separate the Panels

Tips for Hanging Curtains
Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

How do you deal with multiple windows spread out across one large wall? I personally love the idea of extending an extra-wide curtain rod from wall to wall and hanging multiple panels, creating a softening repetition effect.

Belgian Linen Curtain + Blackout Panel
West Elm Belgian Linen Curtain and Blackout Panel $159 $69
Shop

Adopt the Roman Shade

Hanging Window Shades
Thomas Loof/Trunk Archive

Roman shades are the perfect solution when floor-to-ceiling curtains are not an option (when windows are in front of a radiator or a bathtub, for example). My favorite type of shade is the relaxed roman. The result is always timelessly chic.

Restoration Hardware Belgian Heavyweight Textured Linen Relaxed Roman Shade
Shop

(price as configured)

Hide the Hardware

How to Hang Curtains
Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

There are certain instances where curtains look better mounted on the inside of the window frame (particularly when large windows are concerned). There are other times when it looks best to conceal the hardware in the ceiling for a minimalist look. This small detail can have a huge impact on the look of a space.

Crate and Barrel Hayden Silk Curtains $80
Shop

Match Your Curtains to Your Walls

How to Choose Curtains
Jonas Ingerstedt

I’m rarely a fan of heavily patterned “accent” curtains because they can stick out like sore thumbs when not properly executed. On the other hand, curtains that match the exact color of the walls and blend in with the décor are foolproof.

Pottery Barn Belgian Flax Linen Drape $199
Shop

Use Curtains as Walls

Hanging Curtains Advice
Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

Think beyond the exterior windows when considering curtains because they also make clever space separators. Use them to separate two rooms or to define areas in a studio apartment.

Sheer Crosshatch Curtain
West Elm Sheer Crosshatch Curtain $109 $69
Shop

Do Patterned Curtains Right

Hanging Curtains Tips
Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

If you want to go the patterned route, hang curtains as high as possible and wide enough so they hang outside the window frame when opened. That way you’re not blocking valuable sun rays from streaming in. Pay attention to the weight of the fabric—I generally prefer heavier fabrics like velvets with blackout liners. Pro tip: You can also insert weights in the hem of the curtains to make them hang straighter.

Embroidered Luella Curtain
Anthropologie Embroidered Luella Curtain $178
Shop

Go Rustic

How to Hang Window Treatments
Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

Natural materials are fantastic for shades if you’re looking to layer them underneath curtains, or if you’re simply looking for a more rustic effect. They look great mounted on the inside of the frame, as opposed to roman shades, which look better when mounted on the outside.

Pottery Barn Emery Frame Border Linen Drape $139
Shop

Embrace the Pool

Hanging Window Treatments
Brooke Holm/Trunk Archive

This rule is not for the neat freak, but for a more relaxed bohemian look, hang your curtains so they pool two to three inches on the floor. It can create a beautiful carefree effect.

Belgian Linen Curtain + Blackout Panel
West Elm Belgian Linen Curtain $129 $104
Shop

Upgrade Your Window Hardware:

Adjustable Double Curtain Rod
Anthropologie Adjustable Double Curtain Rod $88 $88
Shop
Crate and Barrel Brushed Brass Curtain Hardware $50
Shop
Handheld Tieback
Anthropologie Handheld Tieback $48
Shop
Equestrian Tieback
West Elm Mid-Century Double Rod $179 $79
Shop
1-3/8
Rejuvenation West Slope Drapery Rod $186
Shop
Buchanan Window Rod
West Elm Midcentury Rod in Carbon Brass $79 $71
Shop
Diadem Finials
West Elm Thin Metal Curtain Ring With Clip $14 $10
Shop
Sphere Finials
CB2 Brass With White Marble Curtain Hardware $10 $8
Shop
Bombay Tassel Tieback
Anthropologie Bombay Tassel Finials $68
Shop
Sora Finials
Anthropologie Sora Finials $38
Shop
Sculptural Wood Rod
West Elm Sculptural Wood Rod $89 $62
Shop
Restoration Hardware Estate Crystal Ball Finials $70 $56
Shop

Next up: Nate Berkus sheds light on window treatments, once and for all.

This story was originally published on February 8, 2016, and has since been updated. 

Related Stories