When you enter a room, you probably respond to the feel of the space. Small details create a sense of beauty and harmonize the components within a room. Professional decorators and designers are trained in the art of harmonizing elements to create a cohesive decorative scheme. One of the most important elements in room décor is the window treatment. Windows don’t just bring in light and air. They can define your style, provide privacy, serve as a focal point or serve as a balancing factor that echoes the colors, patterns and textures in the space. Choosing window dressings and installing them need not be left to interior designers. Here, we give some tips on how to hang curtains to give a professional look to the windows and the room.
Proper window measurements are a must when installing any type of window treatment. Sketch the window to be measured. Use a tape measure to measure the width and height. If there are several windows that look as if they are the same size, measure each one separately anyway. They may not be as similar as they look. Label each one as you draw and measure it to avoid confusion later. Measure each dimension in three places, and mark them on the sketch. Mark nearby vents and electrical outlets to avoid covering them with the curtains.
Window dressing can be mounted either inside or outside the frame. If you have attractive moldings, you may want to feature them as part of the décor. In that case, mounting the curtains inside the frame minimizes the window treatment and highlights the casing. Take three measurements across the width and three for the height inside the molding, and use the smallest measurement of each.
If your window frames are not attractive or you would prefer to cover the molding, mount the curtains outside the frame. For outside mounts, measure the outside of the window molding and use the largest of the three measurements taken for the width and for the height. Installing draperies outside the frame lets less light come in around the edges when the curtains are closed and helps block drafts.
Instructions about how to hang curtains usually address installation techniques. However, part of the art of successful window dressing is selecting elements of the window treatment that work together to make a decorative statement. Take a photo of each window, and bring it with you to the store. Or if you are shopping online, then be sure to refer to your space frequently so you can visualize the curtains in place. As you shop for curtains or other window coverings, refer back to the photo so that you remember the shape and color of the moldings and the wall space around the window.
Ready-made curtains come in every color of the rainbow. Patterns, textures and color work together to create an attractive window dressing. Ready-made curtains come in standard lengths of 63, 84 and 95 inches. If your windows are an odd size, you may have to be inventive if you use ready-mades. Odd lengths can be hemmed to size. Oddly shaped windows or those with unusual widths can be covered by adding extra panels. This fools the eye into seeing a differently sized window. For a full look, the curtains should be between 1 ½ to 3 times the width of the window. For most windows, you will need several panels.
If you are using valances, similar measurements apply. Valances are usually between 12 and 22 inches long and cover the top 25 percent of a window. Just like the curtains, they should be between 1 ½ to 3 times the width of the window for fullness.
As you select your window coverings, think about how you will launder them. Formal draperies in exotic materials such as silks or velvet may need special treatment for cleaning. If you prefer materials that are easy to care for, look for cottons, cotton blends and synthetics. Some silks can be laundered, but it is safer to check before you buy.
Selecting Rods and Hardware
Curtain hardware adds to the overall look of window dressing. It's easy to walk into a store and buy standard, boring, off-the-shelf rods. However, drapery hardware is available in an assortment of colors, materials and styles. Think about what complements your curtains and overall décor. Make sure that the rods you select can support the weight of the fabric to be hung on them.
Rods and hardware come in a variety of metals, such as wrought iron, brass, stainless steel and aluminum. Each has a distinct look and can be used to complement a decorative style. Other materials include acrylic, plastic and wood. Acrylic rods disappear, emphasizing the curtains, windows and overall decor. Bamboo poles have a light and airy feel and work well with lightweight fabrics.
Other elements that add to the decorative style include finials, rings, wands, pulls, tiebacks and trim. For example, brass curtain rings on an acrylic pole highlight the sheen of the brass and complement other reflective materials in the room such as mirrors. Tab-top curtains hung on wrought iron let the black finish show through, making it part of the design.
Finials come in many sizes, materials and shapes. Be creative in your selections. They range from whimsical to formal and can make a strong statement about your personal style. When you select finials, make sure they fit in the space. Remember, rod lengths do not include the length of the finials.
You will need some basic tools to install your curtains:
- Tape measure
- Builder's level
- Wall anchors and screws
- Screw driver
Measure for rod width and height, and mark according to the guidelines below. If you are mounting rods on the outside of the frame, make sure they extend at least 3 inches on either side of the window. This measurement does not include the finials. Hanging rods too close to the frame makes the window look smaller and the draperies look constricted. When the curtain is open using this measurement, it will cover part of the window.
If you want the curtains to open to the sides of the frame so that the entire window is exposed, make sure the rod extends 8 to 12 inches beyond each side of the window, excluding the finials. Hanging the rod several inches wider than the window also makes the window appear larger.
Rods should be placed at least 2 inches above a window. The ideal height is midway between the ceiling and the window casing. If the room has low ceilings or short windows, hanging the curtains close to the ceiling gives the illusion of height. If you selected ready-made curtains in a standard length, check to make sure that they fall to the desired length on the sill, wall or floor. You may need to adjust the rod height slightly to get the look you want.
Before you drill, hold the rod and brackets over the place marked. Use the builder's level to make sure the rod is level. Ceilings, window casings and floors are often sloped or uneven. Hanging a rod in relation to a ceiling or floor may actually make the rod slope. If the discrepancy is far off, you may have to adjust the placement to make sure the rod doesn't look askew.
When you are sure of the position, drill the holes. You may need wall anchors to hold screws in place. Make sure the hardware can bear the weight of the curtains. Rods longer than 4 feet will need a center bracket to hold the rod in place. Screw in the brackets, place the rings or other hanging hardware on the curtains if you are using them, and slide the curtains onto the rod. Place the rod with the curtains on the brackets, and screw the finials onto the ends of the rod. Step back and admire your new window dressings.