Rules About the Length of Curtains

Occasionally, you may walk into a room and immediately notice the draperies, not because they are really attractive but because they look strange. For example, the draperies may be an unusual length, such as midway between the windowsill and the floor or several inches above the floor. Such drapes can look like they were designed to fit some other window and the homeowner accidentally installed them on the wrong window. No one wants that kind of reaction to their decor. To avoid such mistakes, it is helpful to follow a few drapery length suggestions.

Curtains can look too short when they fall below the windowsill and above the floor.
Curtains can look too short when they fall below the windowsill and above the floor.

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Full-Length

The most common length for draperies is full-length. This drape is designed to attach to a curtain rod that is mounted above the window and falls to just above the floor. The drape should move easily on the curtain rod and not sweep the floor's surface. The style of fabric used can affect the atmosphere generated by the drape. For example, when used in formal guest rooms, such as dining and living rooms, heavy full-length drapes convey a feeling of formality; conversely, full-length sheers used in a bedroom creates a feeling of romance. Quality drapes will be lined and may be paired with blinds or sheers for better light control.

Full-length drapes finish an inch or two above the floor.
Full-length drapes finish an inch or two above the floor.

Windowsill-Length

Windowsill-length draperies are often used for short windows where the wall space beneath the window is occupied by furniture or cabinets. This allows the drapery to operate easily while still allowing the wall space to be used. In such cases, the drapery should finish within 1 inch from the top of the windowsill. When the drapery operates, the fabric should not sweep or touch the windowsill.

Windowsill-length draperies allow furniture to be drawn up close to the wall.
Windowsill-length draperies allow furniture to be drawn up close to the wall.

Cafe-Length

Cafe-length curtains are designed to cover the lower half of a window. The curtain rod is usually positioned so that the curtain will end just above the windowsill. Sometimes this requires that you place the rod above the halfway mark of the window. Cafe curtains are often paired with valance pieces mounted to the top of the window. The lower curtains are operational and can be opened and closed by sliding them along the rod. Cafe curtains are commonly used in breakfast areas and kitchens so that a person sitting next to the window can operate the curtain to look outside if she wishes.

Cafe-length curtains provide privacy while still allowing light inside the room.
Cafe-length curtains provide privacy while still allowing light inside the room.

Radiator and other Lengths

Radiator-length drapes are drapes that finish just above the radiator in the room. Often, these drapes are longer than windowsill-length but much higher than floor-length. The drapes are kept above the radiator so that they will function properly without covering or impeding the functions of the heater. Window bottom-length drapes are drapes that cover upper windows in multi-story walls. Usually this type of drape is motor-operated and it fits the window or set of windows it is positioned over.

Radiator-length draperies often finish above the heater.
Radiator-length draperies often finish above the heater.

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