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Home Design 101: How to Hang Drapes

By: Casey Gerber

September 9, 2016

It seems like it should be easy. You go to the store, buy drapes, hang them up. Right? WRONG. Picking and hanging drapes is like being stuck in an endless Goldilocks  nightmare of extremes: too short, too long, too sheer, too dark, too full, too skimpy.  Hang them too high and they look like an NBA player in capri pants, too low and you’ve got a toddler in a prom dress. How do you get them just right? And what about the swag?!

We’re revealing once and for all our fool-proof tips to selecting, hanging, and replicating the look of designer drapery, without the cost of a custom job. Break out that measuring tape, folks. It’s time to hang.

Tip #1: Hang at the right height 

The biggest mistake people make when hanging drapes? Positioning the rod in the wrong place. Hang the rod too low, and the drapes will make your window look squat and your ceiling lower. Hang it too high, and you have a weird gap of wall space between the rod and the top of the window. What’s the perfect spot? Go for 6″ to 10″ above the top of the window.

Now that you know where to hang the rod, you can pick the length of your drapes. They should never hang too high off the ground but should pool every so slightly on the floor (or more for a dramatic look). If you ceilings are any higher than 8′, then standard 84″ drapes will be too short. It’s better to order longer drapes and have them shortened – most dry cleaners and tailors can add a quick hem for relatively little cash.


Use a level to hang your rod completely straight. You’ll thank yourself! 

Tip #2:  Leave room on the sides

Now that you’ve got the rod length right, you’d think that the width would be easy. Just put the bracket on either side of the window frame, right? Unfortunately, no. Hanging it right at the sides of the window frame means that when the curtains are open, they’ll still be covering quite a bit of your window, blocking out sunlight. If you extend out 4″-6″ on either side of the window frame, you’ll have room to fully open your drapes, making the window appear more grand. General rule of thumb for width and height? Don’t crowd your window, let it breathe.



Tip #3: Pick the proper fabric  

Think of your ideal drapery material in the way that you would an outfit. You wouldn’t rock a silk or velvet evening dress to a casual get together, would you? Leave these fabric types for more formal spaces, like dining rooms, and go with linen, wool, or cotton drapes for a more casual feel.

Tip #4: Sheers vs. lined drapes?

Oh, the ongoing drapery dilemma — sheers, lined panels, or both? Sheer drapes will help filter and soften incoming light, while lined panels will block light from entering the room entirely. Lined drapery, or blackout drapes, are great for bedrooms and home theaters. For the best of both worlds, hang a double rod with sheers for when you want the sun and blackout drapes when you need to snooze.

Tip #5: Pile ’em on! 

One window gets two drapery panels, right? Not necessarily. Even when they’re closed, drapes should still feel full, so we recommend purchasing enough panels so that the total fabric width is 2 to 3 times the width of the window. For a standard 24″ wide window, two standard drapery panels might suffice, but wider windows would require more.

Tip #6: Add designer details 

To get that expensive, custom-designed look, hang your drapes with pin hooks and rings, rather than clip rings, the standard rod pocket, or grommet top drapes.

Tip #7: To accessorize or not to accessorize? 

If a traditional look is what you’re after, add tiebacks to both sides of the window. Where do you hang the tiebacks? Most decorators use what’s called the Golden Mean, multiplying the length of the panel by .618 and measuring down from the top of the panel to the result of that calculation. Want to eyeball it? Hang the tiebacks a little more than halfway down the curtain panel.

Want a more casual look? Let your drapes do what they do best, hang. But whatever you do, don’t think about tying your panels in a knot!

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