Choosing Length

Top Treatments - Valances, Swags, and Cornices

A good rule of thumb is to make a top treatment no more than the height of the entire window. Your exact sizing, however, will depend on personal taste and placement of the treatment. Top treatments are great for capping overly tall windows as well as lengthening short ones. Be sure not to go too small - overly short treatments look skimpy.

Curtains and Draperies

Before purchasing curtains or draperies, you'll need to decide on their length in relation to the window. In general, the longer the length, the more formal the appearance. But elegantly flowing draperies are not always practical. Consider what may be under the window, including heat vents and cold air returns which shouldn't be blocked. Also consider how much activity will likely be taking place nearby. Small children and pets should also be taken into consideration.

The four standard lengths for curtains and draperies are as follows:

  • Sill Length - These are most often used for horizontal series of bay and bow windows and for windows that are frequently opened.
  • Below Sill Length - These treatments should hang at least four inches below the window frame to conceal the apron (the lowest portion of the window casing underneath the sill). Extraneous length, however, may look awkward, so take some time to plan this look. This length is great for picture windows and over window seats and provides more privacy than sill length treatments, especially from people who will be walking nearby, such as in an apartment.
  • Floor Length - For a proper look, these should hang exactly inch above the floor, so as not to drag. For an even more formal look, or to allow varying amounts of privacy, hang a heavier drapery over a lighter curtain. In this case, have the back panels hang to inch shorter than the front panels.
  • Puddled - This dramatic, European treatment should be reserved for windows that are not opened or closed frequently and do not hang in high traffic areas. They are particularly effective in floor-to-ceiling treatments. Add an extra six to eight inches to your floor length measurement to create this look.

If you wish to keep your curtains or draperies in tiebacks, be sure to add extra fabric to your measurements. If you find your curtains or draperies a little too long, consider using tiebacks. Tiebacks can alter the length significantly depending on how much fabric is gathered above the cord.

No matter how long your curtains, you'll get the best results if the curtain has a four inch hem made with a double thickness of fabric. This kind of hem will help your curtains hang evenly.