Rookie Mistake: Hanging Curtains

Rookie Mistakes: a series of common decor mistakes made by rookies… aka us. And no we are not judging because we have made (and continue to make) these mistakes too!

Remember the Rookie Mistakes series is a NO JUDGEMENT ZONE. We’ve both made ALL of these decorating mistakes in our own homes, and simply want you to learn from us so you can make your home look amazing without having to make the mistakes we did!

Rookie Mistake – Hanging Curtains

Hanging curtains at the right height. It's easy to hang them too low, so follow our tips to hang curtains the right way!
My office- but those curtains!

So let’s chat about this very common mistake and one I have been making up until very recently.  Hanging curtains the wrong way!

Here’s what my office/getting ready room looked like up until a few weeks ago. Not bad, right? I really love this setup and spend a lot of time in here since I do my makeup at that vanity each morning. Plus, I use the closet in this room so I pretty much spend every morning right in here. Even in this space that I love (and use a lot), I was making a big rookie mistake. Notice the curtains.

How to Hang Curtains the Wrong Way
The mistake is subtle, but once you notice it, you can't unsee it

It’s not their color or style, but actually, the length of these curtains that is ALL WRONG. I bought these curtains and rod from HomeGoods a while back and still love the color but didn’t realize that these XL curtains still weren’t long enough.

I love all the elements of this room, just need to step up my curtain game

In all honesty, they don’t look awful (I’ve seen worse) but curtains can really help a window look and feel larger than it actually is and these curtains were not doing that at all. These old curtains were way too short and they weren’t hung wide or high enough on the window. #rookiemistake

I was embarrassed about them since I realized what I did wrong, which was pretty much immediately, and finally got around to swapping them out for curtains that were long enough and wide enough. And can you believe what a big difference that simple change made to this space?

Getting the right sized curtains makes the window look and feel a lot bigger than it did before, which makes the whole room feel bigger. Plus, the whole room is even brighter now since the open curtains don’t obstruct as much of the window as the old ones did.

How to Hang Curtains the Right Way

We partnered with Zillow to create a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to hang curtains here, but today on the DIY Playbook we wanted to discuss where to hang your curtains so they’re the right height… and so you can avoid the same rookie mistake I made.

Rookie mistake- be sure to hang the rod well above the window

Well, first of all, you want to hang the curtains a lot wider and a lot higher than the actual window. This way the window will appear larger than it is and the ceiling will appear taller than it actually is.

How wide should the curtain rod be hung?

Before you even figure out how long the curtains should be, you’ll have to figure out where to hang the rod. We chose to hang this rod at least one foot, or 12 inches, outside of the window (on both sides). We recommend this number on pretty much any window because this will allow the curtains to drape down without interfering with the light of the window.

Adjusting the height of the rod makes the windows, and room, appear taller

If you look back to my first set of curtains, you’ll notice that the curtains didn’t have enough room to expand on the rod and really stayed bunched up because the rod was not long enough. A longer rod will eliminate this problem and make your window appear larger.
Another thing to notice is where the mounting hardware is hung in relation to the rod/curtains. After your rod is mounted, add one curtain clip (we used these ones) to the outside of the hardware and have the remaining curtain clips on the inside (or window side) of this rod. This will prevent the curtain from being pulled all the way to the middle of the window and will keep a nice even look when they’re drawn closed.

How high should the rod be?

The office, again

The rod’s height is probably the best way to add visual height to your space and make the ceiling appear higher than it is. Instead of hanging the rod right above the window’s casing (like I did the first time), the rod should be hung much higher than the window… almost to the ceiling actually. 

This rod can actually be hung even higher than this one if you wish. We measured about 6 inches from the ceiling but anywhere from 2-6 inches is perfect.

The higher and wider rod makes such a difference in this space and I’m so glad I changed it. And looking back, I should have chosen a black rod from the very beginning.

Curtains hung right

Fun Fact: Casey read somewhere that a curtain rod is the “eyeliner” of the room because it adds just a pop of black, which is just enough to highlight the window and everything else in the room. So even though I don’t have a ton of black in this room, I’m so happy I chose the black rod this time around. We went with this simple black rod from Lowe’s. 

How long should the curtains be?

Once you hang your curtain rod, or at least figure out where it will be hung, then you can figure out how tall your curtains should be. Please learn from my rookie mistake and do not choose curtains that look like flood pants! We purchased these curtains from Ikea in 118″ so they were extra long. We love the “just kissing the floor” look, but some people prefer a little bit of a “puddling” on the floor. This means that they’re a bit long (1-2 inches) and hit the floor. Either way, you don’t want to be too short! This may mean that you need to get extra long curtains, but that’s okay because we have an easy way to hem them.

Which brings us to…

How do I hem curtains?

Again, look how great these look- so long and classy
A simple guide to hanging curtains
Updated curtains and rod in the office

Unfortunately, not all curtains will come the exact length that you need them (boo!). So you may need to hem them so they are the perfect height for your space. If that’s the case, you can get them hemmed at a local cleaners OR DIY them… we’ve tried both options. A dry cleaner is obviously a lot more convenient but it can also be expensive AND having to figure out the length prior to hanging them can create a margin of error. The DIY option is time-consuming but it is a lot more cost-effective. The great news though is that you don’t need to know how to sew to hem your own curtains. Check out this tutorial for no-sew hemming!
Once you have your high and wide (black) curtain rod with the extra long curtains, your windows will magically appear much larger than they did before. In this graphic, the window sizes are actually the EXACT same. But isn’t it crazy that they appear to be different because of the rod/curtain placement?! It’s insane what a difference curtains can make… especially when you do it right. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistake & do it the right way from the start.

How to hang curtains in your home

Here’s another post with even more tips to get gorgeous full curtains.


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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