How Long Should Curtains Be?

Curtains are an often overlooked element of décor in a room. However, well-chosen draperies can complement your interior decorative theme by adding a layer of interest or serving as a focal point. Curtains come in a large assortment of colors, patterns, textures and styles. A key element that help curtains fit into the décor of a room is the length. From cute café curtains to formal draperies that puddle on the floor, curtains can add drama and pizzazz. If you are installing new curtains, you may wonder how long should curtains be for a bedroom, living room or kitchen. Here is a guide to help you decide what works best with your unique style. 


Curtain Measurements

Ready-made curtains come in several standards widths and lengths. Standard ready-made panel lengths are 63, 84, 95, 108, 120 and 144 inches. Café curtains, also called tiers, are shorter, usually 24 or 36 inches.

Curtain measurements always state the width first and the length second. The length of a panel is measured from the top of the rod pocket to the bottom edge. Some curtains have headers, or decorative edging, that rise above the rod pocket. Headers are not included in the measurement.

If you have unusually shaped or oddly sized windows, ready-made panels may be challenging to install on your windows. However, you can order custom-made curtains that are designed to the exact specifications of the windows.



Measuring for Curtains

When you measure for curtains, add enough panels to get the fullness across the window for the look you want. Draperies should be between 1 ½ to 3 times the width of the window. For an opulent look, add more panels. For a tailored look, reduce the fullness. For example, if your window is 30 inches across, panels should measure between 45 and 90 inches across the width. Valance fullness should complement the main panels.

To measure for length, first decide on the style you want. There are four standard positions for length:

  • To the top of the window sill.
  • Just below the sill.
  • Midway between the sill and floor.
  • Floor-length.


There are three options for floor-length curtains: just above the floor, kissing the floor and puddling. If you are buying ready-made curtains, longer is better. If they are too long, they can be hemmed. However, if they are too short, they look skimpy.

The ideal placement for a rod is between 4 and 6 inches above the top of the window frame. Most standard curtain lengths work with 8- to 9-foot ceilings. For rooms with low ceilings, hang a rod just below the ceiling to give an illusion of height. For rooms with 10-foot ceilings or higher, you may need to adjust the rod height to ensure the bottom of the curtain rests where you want it.

Tiers are installed halfway down the window, leaving the top half unadorned. Café curtains are popular in kitchens because they provide privacy while allowing light to enter the room from the top half of the window. Café curtains rest on the sill, an important safety feature if windows in a kitchen are near the cooking area.

To determine the curtain length needed for your window, hang the rod and measure down to the desired position. If the curtains have rod pockets, tabs or back tabs, measure from the top of the rod. If the curtains have rings or clips, measure from position of the clip or ring. The area above this is the header, which is not included in the measurement.


Choosing the Length

The length of curtain you choose depends on your taste and the room's décor. Living room curtains should reflect how the room is used. For a family room with a lot of activity, you may prefer curtains that are casual, fun, brightly colored and with interesting patterns. You might select a length that just touches the floor, rests on the sill or goes midway down the wall. If you have young children or pets, a length that sits above the floor is easier to keep clean. If the room is more formal, you may prefer classical styles that touch the floor or puddle.

Bedroom curtains come in many styles and lengths. Because it is your place of retreat and relaxation, choose curtains that reflect the mood and character of the room. Sill-length curtains give a pert, casual look. Heavy draperies that cascade to the floor add drama. Puddling adds a romantic touch.

You can add a finishing touch to any room by choosing curtains that work with your decorative style. From chic to Bohemian, the colors, patterns and length all contribute to the look.