9 Must-Know Rules for Hanging Curtains and Shades

Updated 06/20/19

Just like quality lighting and hardware are commonly known 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, dare we say, a little frumpy. In addition to its decorative benefits, curtain and shades also offer a number of practicalities. Curtains or shades of the right length and proper mounting can offer privacy, frame a worthy view (and hide an underwhelming one), diffuse outdoor light, provide insulation and protect your most favorite décor pieces from the sun.

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 tips to know, from curtain length rules to when an inside mount should be used over an outside mount. Certain rules are well-known among the design community and décor aficionados. However, each window is different and requires its own specific attention, and that’s where 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.

Quick Tip

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

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. On the other hand, try heavier fabrics like velvets for privacy. Heavier window treatments can also help insulate in colder climates or older buildings (goodbye, drafts!)

Pottery Barn Belgian Flax Linen Sheer Drape $79 $35-$70
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Separate the Panels

Tips for Hanging Curtains
Bauer Media/Trunk Archive

How do you deal with multiple windows spread out across one large wall? We 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 Flax Linen Curtain in Indigo Blue
West Elm Belgian Flax Linen Curtain, "Indigo Blue" $129-$149 $40-$50
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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.) Our favorite type of shade is the relaxed Roman. The result is always timelessly chic.

Restoration Hardware Belgian Heavyweight Textured Linen Relaxed Roman Shade
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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). While outside mounting is most common, meaning when the curtain rod is placed outside of the window frame and can make a window appear larger, there are other times when it looks best to conceal the hardware in the window frame in the ceiling for a minimalist look. This small detail can have a huge impact on the look of a space. Think: Outside mount for a luxurious look and fuller coverage, or inside mount for a sleeker, more modern feel.

Crate and Barrel Hayden Silk Curtains $80 $77 - $100
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Match Your Curtains to Your Walls

How to Choose Curtains
Jonas Ingerstedt

We're 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
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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
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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. 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 $248
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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
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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. Otherwise, experts recommend hanging curtains no more than 1 cm from the floor; curtains hung too far from the floor can make a space feel smaller.

Belgian Linen Curtain + Blackout Panel
West Elm Belgian Linen Curtain $129 $104
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Upgrade Your Window Hardware:

Adjustable Double Curtain Rod
Anthropologie Adjustable Double Curtain Rod $138
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Crate and Barrel Brushed Brass Curtain Hardware $17-$70
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Handheld Tieback
Anthropologie Handheld Tieback $48
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Equestrian Tieback
West Elm Mid-Century Double Rod $99
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1-3/8
Rejuvenation West Slope Drapery Rod $186
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Buchanan Window Rod
West Elm Midcentury Rod in Carbon Brass $79-$109
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Diadem Finials
West Elm Thin Metal Curtain Ring With Clip $14-$24
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Sphere Finials
CB2 Brass With White Marble Curtain Hardware Set $50-$70
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Bombay Tassel Tieback
Anthropologie Bombay Tassel Finials $68
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Sora Finials
Anthropologie Sora Finials $38
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Faceted finials in various finishings.
West Elm Faceted Finials, set of two $40
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Restoration Hardware Estate Crystal Ball Finials $87-$108
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