How to Hang Curtains Like a Designer

Measuring height, width from your windows, and tricks to make them look larger

Tan drapes hanging from each end of curtain rod above window

The Spruce / Almar Creative

A nice set of drapes can take a room from boring to beautiful in the blink of an eye. Some may argue that no room is complete without window treatments. But even the most beautiful set of drapes won't do a room any good if they're not properly hung. Before you install your window treatments, make sure you know how to hang them the right way.

There are a surprising number of variables when it comes to hanging drapes, each of which needs to be considered as you plan and complete the project. Hanging curtains in an apartment, for example, may mandate a method that doesn't involve drilling into walls, since damage to walls can anger a building owner or threaten your damage deposit. Or, you might want to hang curtains or drapes over a window already equipped with blinds, which may require that you adjust the size of the mounting brackets and the placement of those curtain brackets to create a deeper offset from the wall, or to adjust how far the curtain rods extend on each side of the window.

Also, give consideration to how long the curtains or drapes will hang below the window. Floor-length drapes give the room a formal look, while sill-level curtains might be more appropriate for kitchens or bedrooms.

Keep all these considerations in mind as you plan and install your curtains or drapes.

Installing Curtain Rods

The trickiest part of hanging drapes or curtains is knowing where to put the curtain rod. It differs based on a few factors including the style of the window, the type of window covering, and the height of the ceiling.


Click Play to Learn Designer Tips for Hanging Drapes

How Height Impacts Curtain Rod Placement

Use these tips to make sure you place your rods at the right height:

  • For standard drapes that hang on either side of a window, the typical height is halfway between the top of the window casing and the ceiling. This applies if there are more than 12 inches between the window trim and ceiling. 
  • For cathedral ceilings, leave approximately 4 to 6 inches above the window trim as a guideline. 
  • No matter what the ceiling height, the minimum distance from the top of the window casing to the curtain rod is 2 inches.
  • To create the illusion of height, mount the drapery rods close to the ceiling. This is particularly important to do if the room has low ceilings.
  • Use these same rules when the windows are arched.
Curtain rod height measured above window with measuring tape

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Width Considerations

Use these tricks to make the drapes a standard width and to create the illusion of wider windows:

  • The standard distance from the window casing to the end of the curtain rod (excluding finials) on each side of the window should be 4 to 10 inches.
  • As a general rule, drapes will be open during the day, so make sure the curtain rod extends at least four inches on each side of the window’s inside frame.
  • To create the illusion of a wider window, extend the rod up to 10 inches beyond the window's frame.
how to hang drapes illustration

Illustration: The Spruce / Emily Mendoza

Drapery Sizes

Consider the right size, length, and width of drapes for your space. There are many store-bought options, or your room may require custom-made drapes to meet specific heights, room, or window specifications.

  • In the majority of cases, the ideal length for drapes is long enough to just kiss the floor. Obviously where you hang your curtain rod will have an impact. If you're purchasing ready-made drapes, it will be a bit of a balancing act to determine what length to get and where to hang the rod.
  • For a traditional, formal look, consider drapes that puddle a couple of inches on the floor. This look isn't as popular as it once was but it's inherently luxurious and can still work in formal spaces.
  • Do not allow your drapes to hang above the floor. When they stop a couple of inches above the floor, it can make the ceilings look lower.
  • For drapes to look full, the panels should have a combined width of at least double the width of the window. If you have two panels, each one should equal the width of the window.
  • Keep in mind that some fabrics hang differently than others, so light fabrics may require more fullness, while heavy fabrics may require a little less.
Tan drapes touching wooden floor near dresser

The Spruce / Almar Creative

Drapery Hardware

Drapery hardware is often the last step to pull the room together and allows you to complement the style of the room.

  • Curtain rods and finials should complement the drapery fabric. Heavier fabrics such as velvets and chenilles should be on large, somewhat decorative rods, while light cotton and sheer fabric can be mounted on lightweight, daintier rods.
  • The hardware should also complement the rest of the room. For instance, if you've got Lucite lamps or chairs, a Lucite drapery rod might work. If you have oil-rubbed bronze hardware in the rest of the room, a similar curtain rod may be the best choice.
  • Consider the finials at each end of the curtain rod. Finials are decorative accents that can have a surprisingly big impact on a room. If the finials are particularly large, take their size into account when determining placement.
Brown and white patterned finial on end of curtain rod closeup

The Spruce / Almar Creative

How to Hang Curtains

Once you have evaluated all the considerations outlined above, the actual installation will likely go relatively smoothly. Here's a quick overview of how curtains and draperies can be hung:

  1. Measure: First, take precise measurements the width and height of your windows, and their position between the ceiling and floor. These measurements will be essential to selecting the right rods, brackets, and curtains/drapes. If the windows have blinds over which the drapes will hang, make sure to determine if, and how far, the blinds stand out from the window casings. This will dictate the necessary offset of the brackets and rods from the wall.
  2. Determine size and style of curtains or drapes: Among the most important decisions is what style of window treatment you want. Do you want formal drapes that hang to the floor and extend well beyond the windows on each side? Or are you aiming for informal cafe curtains that just barely cover the windows? Do you want sheer curtains that allow a good amount of light to shine in? Or heavy, light-proof draperies that keep a bedroom in restful darkness when they are drawn closed? If draperies are being custom-made, now is the time to order them, as it sometimes takes several weeks for them to be fabricated and delivered.
  3. Choose rods and hardware: The hardware for your window treatments will be based both on the measurements (step 1) and on the style considerations (step 2). Hardware can range from simple thin rods resting on nearly invisible brackets screwed to the window frame, to elaborate ornament rods and brackets with decorative finials adorning the ends of the rods. The style you choose depends mostly on the aesthetics you've chosen for your window treatments.
  4. Install brackets: Actual installation of your window treatments begins with precise measurements and attachment of the rod brackets to the window frame or wall. Arguably, this is the most important part of the process. This step requires some basic carpentry skills and tools, such as drilling pilot holes or installing wall anchors to support drapes that can be quite heavy. It may be possible to attach brackets directly to wall studs, but it's more likely that you will need to attach the brackets using wall anchors or toggle bolts that secure the brackets solidly to the wall in the spaces between wall studs. It's critical that the brackets be installed so they are leveled from side to side and at the proper height above the floor. Proper installation of the brackets is essential to durable, functional drapery installation.
  5. Mount curtains/drapes on rods: In many cases, the next step is to thread the drapery fabric through the rod. Alternately, some styles may require you to attach drapery hooks through pleats in the top of the drapes.
  6. Hang Curtains/Drapes: With draperies attached to the rod or to hanger hooks, the drapes can be lifted into place. This usually requires the assistance of a helper, and probably one or two stepladders.
  7. Install Tiebacks (Optional): Formal-style draperies may now require you to install tieback cords and hardware. With this final step, your drapery installation is complete.


To hang curtains in a rented apartment where installing permanent window treatments is frowned upon, you can consider one of the many types of no-screw adhesive curtain brackets now available. Available in many sizes, these adhesive, detachable anchors can attach directly to the walls or to window frames to successfully support almost any type of curtains or drapes—even heavy formal window treatments. When your lease expires and its time to move, it's an easy matter to remove the curtains and brackets to leave a blank slate for the next tenants.