How Much Wider Should Curtains Be Than the Window?

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Sheer curtains should be about three times the window width.
Sheer curtains should be about three times the window width. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Window coverings add color and dimension, enhancing the decor of your room. While blackout curtains were used during times of war to prevent light from escaping, decorative curtains were used as early as medieval times, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. When adding curtains to your windows, consider the type of room, weight of the fabric and the purpose you wish the curtains to serve when determining how much wider than the window the curtains should be.

Standard Calculations

The standard recommendation for curtain width is to purchase or make curtains that are about 1 1/2 times larger than your curtain rod. Measure from one bracket of your curtain rod to the other to determine the right width. For example, if the width from bracket to bracket is 60 inches, you should plan on at least 90 inches of curtain panels. If you want the panels to reveal the entire window when pulled back, place the brackets about 2 to 4 inches beyond the edge of the window.

Formal Curtains

The curtains you use in a formal setting, such as a living room, dining room or master bedroom, often consist of thicker, more opulent fabrics. When using velvet, brocade or heavy satin, keep the curtain-to-window width at 1 1/2 times or less to avoid too much bulk at the sides of the window when you pull the curtains back. If you use sheers under your formal curtains, plan on curtains that are two to three times the width of the bracket-to-bracket measurement. The extra width for the sheers gives more privacy and fullness to your window treatment.

Casual Curtains

Curtains in your family room, kitchen or craft room may be in a lighter-weight fabric, such as polished cotton, gauze or a lightweight poly-cotton blend. If you want more fullness with a lighter-weight fabric, use two times the width of your bracket-to-bracket measurement. If your measurement is 36 inches, use 72 inches of curtain fabric. If you are covering a shorter window over a kitchen sink, use 1 1/2 times the width of your window to avoid the bottom edge of the curtain protruding too far from the window sill.

Considerations

When deciding how much fabric to purchase for your window curtains, consider whether you will be drawing the curtains closed or leaving the curtains open. If you always leave the curtains open, you can use just one times the width of your bracket-to-bracket measurement. Using less curtain width on an always-open curtain can save you a substantial amount of money and still give you a full curtain appearance. If you need privacy in a bedroom or a street-view window, purchase extra panels, which will enable the curtains to completely meet when pulled closed, which will prevent people from seeing into your home.

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