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How to Choose Curtains: A Quick and Easy Guide

Trying to figure out the difference between the many types of curtain rods? Wondering how to find the right curtain measurements for your windows? These simple tips will put you on the right track toward creating the perfect window treatments for your home.

Which Curtain Length Should I Buy?

63 Inch Long Panels

This will ultimately depend on the length of your window, but as a general rule, curtains will hang to the following points on most windows:

  • 63 inches: To the windowsill
  • 84 inches: To the floor
  • 95 inches: Puddles onto the floor

The curtain rod can be mounted lower or higher on the wall, depending on the desired look. For example, if you mount the curtain rod a few inches above the window frame, this will give the illusion of a taller window.

How Wide Should My Curtains Be?

84 Inch Long Curtain Pair

Curtains should be at least twice the total width of your window; this is to allow for an attractive bunching of fabric. After all, if you were to hang a curtain panel that equaled the width of your window, you'd be stuck with a flat sheet of fabric.

For the best look, multiply the width of your window by 2 (or 3, if you want a really full look). Then, divide this by the width of the curtain you're considering. This will tell you how many panels to order.

How Do I Hang Curtains with a Valance?

Swag Valance

Curtains are hung on a curtain rod that is mounted with brackets on the wall or window frame. A second rod is mounted an inch or two above the first. Curtains will go on this first rod, while a valance is hung on the second rod, creating an interesting layered look.

Looking to make it even easier? Simplify the hanging process by choosing a curtain with an attached valance.

What Sort of Curtain Rod Do I Use?

Decorative Curtain Rods

    This all depends on the weight of your window treatments, as well as the look you're going for:

  • Sash Rod: Perfect for lightweight lace curtains
  • Utility/Wrap Around Rod: Ideal for curtains meant to "wrap around" the window frame
  • Double Curtain Rod: Great for sheers and curtain panels—or lightweight curtains and valances
  • Tension Rod: Can be mounted inside window casing or between cabinets to avoid making drill holes in walls; great for tiers, valances, and shorter curtains

Does It Matter Which Style of Curtain I Choose?

84 Inch Long Panels

Although much of this is up to your personal preference, there are a few points to consider before settling on a style.

    Environmental Factors

  • Is your window east- or west-facing? Does a bright streetlight beam its way into your bedroom at night? Consider a room darkening or blackout curtain.
  • Does your window let in chilly drafts or waves of heat? Try a thermal curtain to save on energy costs.
  • If your room is on the dim side, you might try a sheer or semi-sheer window treatment to let in more sun.
  • Sound carries through windows. If you happen to live on a noisy street, consider a noise-reducing curtain.

    Room Factors

  • In the rec room, kitchen, or bathroom, you'll generally want to go for a valance, tiers, or a combination of the two. This keeps curtains from getting underfoot in a high-traffic room.
  • Floor-length curtains are perfect in living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms, where the atmosphere is often more relaxed and elegant.

Which Color Would Work Best for My Room?

Slate Blue Floral Curtain Panel

Whether your curtains are going to be your starting point or the final touch, it's helpful to consider the other decorations that will occupy the space. For example, do you own a couch with a bold, colorful print? Consider curtains in a solid neutral color that is featured in the upholstery itself. For example, suppose you own a sofa with tropical florals in white, yellow, green, and various shades of blue. You might borrow the white for a pair of breezy sheer curtains floating behind your sofa. Or, you might pick a subdued green, which can also serve as a neutral color.

On the other hand, if your room is already dominated by solid colors and neutral shades, consider patterned curtains instead. Grommet panels with a beautiful lattice design in golden yellow will surely brighten a room done up in tones of warm gray.