Curtains block or filter light, provide privacy, protect furnishings and floors from light, insulate against heat and noise, and can lower heating and cooling costs. Fun or formal, colorful or subdued, they provide a glimpse of your design aesthetic, and curtain widths for windows play a role in defining that style.
Style of Curtains
Ready-made curtains, typically packaged as a single panel or a pair of panels, come in a few standard lengths. If you make your own or have them custom-made, you can avoid having to use a predetermined length. Café-length curtains, frequently used in kitchens, cover the lower half of the window. Sill length falls from the curtain rod to the top of the windowsill, while apron length drops to the bottom of the window frame. Floor-length drapes drop from the rod to the floor, and extra-long drapes puddle on the floor.
Fabric, design and length are a matter of personal taste, but generally, long drapes are more formal than shorter curtains. Since they cover the window completely when they are drawn, they provide better noise and light insulation as well as greater privacy. Sill-length and apron-length curtains are less formal and work in kitchens with countertops under the windows, on windows with radiators beneath them and in casual spaces, like kids' rooms.
Curtain Rods and Headers
You can find decorative curtain rods everywhere. They come in a variety of finishes and materials, like wood, brushed nickel and wrought iron, and may have ornamental finials. If you do not want the rods to be part of the room décor, use the adjustable, concealed rods usually made from white metal. You can also use traverse rods with draperies that attach to the rod with hooks. Tension rods have a spring inside that holds the rod in place inside the window frame.
Curtain headers consist of the part of the fabric that attaches to the rod, and comes in a variety of styles. Rod pocket refers to the type that has a channel that slips onto the rod. Tab tops have a series of fabric loops that slide onto the rod. You can use pleated curtains with traverse rods, and grommet tops have a row of large eyelets sewn into the top of the curtain that the rod goes through.
Generally, you need mounting the curtain rod 1 to 6 inches above the window frame for drapes, on the window frame for sill- or apron-length curtains or inside the frame for tension rods, but this is also a matter of taste and design style.
Curtain Width Guide
Readymade curtains comprises of particular width and length. Therefore, a package that says 48 x 60 inches has one or two panels that are 48 inches wide and 60 inches long. Keep in mind that the width measurement is flat. If you hang a 48-inch panel on a 48-inch window, there will be no fullness or draping. Readymade curtains must be twice the width of the window, so if your window is 36 inches wide, you need panels that are at least 72 inches across.
However, if you are choosing custom-made curtains, add a couple inches so you can finish, or hem, the sides. Some designers recommend installing the curtain rod first and then measuring the rod length and doubling it rather than the window width. This assures the drapes will fit the rods without leaving excess curtain rod sticking out at each end.
The guideline is a suggestion, not a rule. Never be concerned if you do not find ready-made curtains that match your measurements exactly. When this happens, buy panels that are wider than your measurement rather than narrower.