Whenever you are moving somewhere new, curtains are the one thing that should be installed ahead of moving day. Not only will you have to drill a few holes to place them properly, but they also play an essential role in turning a bare room livable.
Curtains provide the most basic shade of privacy that any living quarters need. However, nice curtains will also add a splash of color to any room. In turn, their length and shape will change the way your room is perceived – from how large it feels to the degree of light that hits it in the morning.
If this is the first time you are ordering curtains, you may be tempted to just order something that just manages to cover the windows. But there’s much more to curtain sizes than that – so before you mar your wall forever, make sure to find out what options are available and which one would fit you best.
Standard Curtain Sizes
Custom-sized curtains are always a possibility – if you have a budget large enough, plus a few weeks before the move-in date, that is. However, in this day of online shopping, you can access thousands of gorgeous models and prints. There is sure to be something out there that will match your dream room to perfection – and it is most likely available in five standard sizes.
Standard Curtain Width
As a near-universal convention, most standard curtain panels are 48 inches wide, so sizes vary mostly in length. The idea is that if you have very wide windows, you should be able to line several curtains together – so the big challenge is to look for the right length.
Standard Curtain Length
Usually, curtains are available in the following lengths:
- 63 inches
- 84 inches
- 96 inches
- 108 inches
- 120 inches
The actual curtain size that you’ll need will be determined by the height of your ceiling and the desired effect. There is a lot of room to play around with here, and there is only one rule of thumb: do not, ever, buy curtains that are just the same length as the window. They simply won’t provide enough coverage.
Your ideal curtain size should always start at a bare minimum of 6 inches over the size of the window. This will give you a good 4 inches of leeway above the curtain to fit the rod, plus at least a couple of extra inches below the window. The latter will make sure your privacy remains protected during a passing breeze.
Curtain Panel Styles – How Low Do You Want to Go?
Usually, curtains can fall on the floor in any of these three different styles:
The idea behind floating curtains is to leave some room between the edge of the curtain and the floor. This style is great for scenic rooms with very wide or panoramic views: if matched with sheer or light curtains or with an additional layer of cascading or tied draperies, floating curtains create a very exotic visual effect.
On a practical level, floating curtains are also great for playrooms, child bedrooms, or homes with pets – especially cats. If they are away from the floor, it will be easier to keep them clean. They also won’t be as tempting for any naughty toddlers looking for something to grab.
Usually, floating curtains should hang either 4 inches under the edge of the window or just two inches away from the floor. Otherwise, you will run the risk of making the ceiling feel low, and the room will appear smaller as a result.
Floor Kissing Length
As their name indicates, floor-kissing curtains should be long enough to just kiss the floor right beneath them without mopping it or puddling on it. This is an ideal option for rooms with high ceilings or for bedrooms that require blackout curtains.
Overall, “kiss length” curtains tend to look very neat and polished, especially on relatively narrow windows. They also tend to look better when hung from thick grommet-style rods
However, they require very exact measurements. You may need to opt for custom-made curtains, or at least buy a size bigger and then shorten them.
Puddling length curtains usually leave up to two or three inches below the floor. The idea here is to get the curtains to puddle on the floor. This style is usually showcased in very formal rooms, such as old-style dining rooms. The “puddles” tend to look better with heavier winter fabrics, and velvety finishes will add to their dramatic appeal.
Conversely, puddling length curtains can be complicated to maintain and are very hard to keep clean. If you have children, they may not be worth the hassle. They should also not be used near French doors or in windows facing a garden or a dusty area: they are not easy to open, and they will trap dust and dirt beneath the puddle.
There are certain windows in the house that don’t need or shouldn’t have full coverage. A classic example of this is kitchen curtains, where full coverage would end up trapping smells and grease. However, this may also include very high windowsills and bathroom windows, if you have any.
There are three types of special lengths to consider here:
- Tier curtains. These usually cover only the bottom half or two-thirds of a window, so they leave a slit that is never covered or darkened. These usually come in lengths of 34 or 36 inches.
- These are very short curtains meant to cover only the top part of a window. They are often used in cottage-style décor or to provide some coverage for doors or bay windows. Standard-sized valances are usually 5 inches long.
- Windowsill curtains. Meant to end right at the windowsill, these curtains are often used in kitchens or when there is a big piece of furniture right beneath.
Why Choosing the Right Curtain Size Is Important
It can be terribly tempting to quickly measure a window and order something just large enough to cover it. If you are strapped for time or dealing with a short-time rental, this can provide a quick solution to keep nosy neighbors away.
Nevertheless, choosing the right curtains can pay off immensely. Neat, well-lined, and carefully placed curtains will make a room look bigger and fresher. They can add to the symmetry of the room or help you hide an awkwardly-placed window.
On the other hand, the effect of using the wrong curtain size is harder to define. Many times, it will be a matter of looking at a window and just feeling something off – whether the fabric is too tense or the rod too hard to reach. If curtains are too short, you can also end up with a room that feels more like a college dorm than a proper home.
Tips on Choosing the Right Curtain Size
Unless you are moving somewhere with existing curtain rods, deciding where to place your curtains or how long they should be may require some preparation.
Before deciding on a certain size, make sure to locate the exact points where the rods will be installed and supported. Try to make sure the rod is at least 4 inches above the top edge of the window. This will ensure complete coverage and will prevent the rod from being visible through the window – unless you are dealing with tier curtains, a visible rod is a huge no-no!
If you would like extra soundproofing or insulation, consider placing the rod just two inches below the ceiling. Then, use a thick or blackout fabric to create an extra layer of protection around your personal space.
Ensure each rod has at least three support points to attach itself to the wall. If you are installing blackout curtains, it would be a good idea to add another point. This will improve its structural integrity.
When deciding on the total width (or the number of panels you will be lining up for each window) of your curtains, make sure you have enough fabric left to flare them up a bit. Ensure the rods start at least three inches away from the side ends of each window to add some wiggle room: this will allow you to close them and open them back again easily. Ideally, the total width should be 1.5 to 2 times the width of the actual window.
Don’t forget to look at the furniture that may be in front or immediately next to your curtains. If you are dead set on puddling or floor-kissing length, you may need to move couches or loveseats by a few inches. And if you are ever in doubt about two different curtain sizes, opt for the larger one: it is way easier to trim them than to extend them!
Ready to Get Started?
Before shopping for curtains, you will need to decide on the right length. Well-planned curtains will make your room look tidier and bigger. Make sure to grab a step ladder and some measuring tape to get a precise location for your curtain rods. Then, use the length of the rods as a reference.