Curtains can look great or they can look untidy. Before measuring curtains, it is important to think about what you wold like and what would suit the room.
With curtains, more expensive does not mean better. More thought usually tends to give better outcomes. Curtains are sold in a variety of materials. Some materials are light and airy and give little more light resistance than a voile. These tend to me made from cotton, linen, silk or a cotton blend. Other curtains are thick, heavy and have a luxury finish. These cold be made from velvet or a man-made velvet/crushed velvet imitation. Other curtains are sold as blackout curtains. These tend to be made from man-made materials and are frequently backed with thicker fabrics. These may be a good option for keeping the light out of the room for sleep purposes if your primary objective is to aim a good night’s rest and recuperation. You must also consider where the curtain is going (front of the house, rear of the house, upstairs or downstairs etc.). This can make all the difference to the style, color, fabric and whether the curtains are completely opaque. You may wish for warm, luxury velvet in the bedroom because these can keep light out and help insulate. Equally, blackout curtains are often good choices for the bedroom as they can stop light entering the room unwantedly. However, downstairs may benefit from some curtains that let a little light through without being see-through in any way. The reason for this is that when low level lights are on inside, curtains that let a little light through can look very warm and inviting from outside, enhancing the overall aesthetic appearance of the outside of your house at night. Next time that you are driving along a street on a dark evening, have a look for yourself. You may not care about this (and we completely understand this), but some people take pride in the outside of their home, including the garden, window frames, the wall etc. so why not continue with your curtains?
Anyway, now that you have considered the material and style, now choose the color and pattern. Think about your home. Is it modern, is it decorated vibrantly, what are your favorite colors? Curtains can either be focal or complementary. If they are focal, perhaps choose a vivid design in striking colors against a light pastel or white background. If the room is already decorated with a design, or there are pictures or other focal objects, perhaps choose a simple block color curtain in cream, ivory, beige or milk chocolate. These especially look nice in livings rooms. These are obviously just ideas and what suits our tastes will not suit everybody’s. We just would like to give you pointers for thought before making a purchase.
There are two fundamental measurements. These are width and drop. The width usually refers to each curtain, therefore in a two-curtain set, the width will be the measurement on the packet x 2. The drop is the height of the curtain from top to bottom. Measure from the pole/rail base to the floor for a full drop or to approximately 6” below the base of your windowsill for a window covering drop. You can have a drop that is anywhere in-between these two measurements, depending on the look that you wish to obtain. Many of the longer drops that are sold ‘off the peg’ are a few inches longer than the average curtain rail to the floor. Some people like curtains to drape along the floor, whereas other people may wish to take the curtains up a little by re-stitching the hem. See our future articles for assistance with this. We recommend that the curtains are either approximately 6” below the windowsill or approximately 1” up from the floor. We think that this looks tidy and lengths that are free-hanging will help any creases to drop out naturally from the curtains. To measure the drop, simply get a tape measure and measure from the base of the curtain rail to your selected curtain distance from the windowsill (6-8” below it) or the floor (1-2” above it). If you have a windowsill that protrudes into the room greater than the curtain rail, you may wish to select curtains that are the length between the curtain rail to the top of the windowsill. Buy an inch or two more than is needed in drop length. The adjustment can be made when fitting in curtains that use plastic curtain hooks (there are often three settings for drop and position of the pleats at the top of the curtain.
The width of the curtains needs to cover the whole width of the window plus about 6-8” plus allowance for any gather in the curtain that you desire. Alternatively, measure the length of the curtain rail/pole from end to end and add an additional amount for any gather that you desire. We do recommend allowing a bit extra for gather (as explained below) as this can increase the appeal of the curtains when they are drawn. The greater the width of each curtain, the more gather and pleats there can be once drawn. We like a few pleats in living and dining rooms for a warm, traditional style. We recommend less pleats in bedrooms so that the curtains can contour the window more closely to prevent too much light filtering in to bedrooms.
A note regarding your curtain pole/rail – this should be placed so that the ends are 5-8” wider than the widest part of the window at each side and approximately 4-7” above the top of the window. Note that these measurements relate to the window recess in the ‘average’ building rather than the frame of the window.
If you wish for no pleats or gathering, use the total width of the curtain pole/rail plus 6-8” for curtains held with plastic curtain pegs, and about 18-24” per 6 feet of window for curtains with eyelets.
Of you would like pleats, times the total length of the rail/pole by 1.5 on curtains with the plastic suspending pegs and by 2 for those with eyelets. Remember that measurements on the packet are often for each curtain rather than the total window width. Once you have got the length of the pole/rail plus either the additional number of inches for no pleats or plus a multiplier of either 1.5 or 2 for pleats, divide the total number by 2 to select the curtain width of each curtain (as likely to be given on the packaging).
If your curtains have drawstrings i.e. are those that are fitted with curtain hooks, do not forget to use these strings to create the gather and pleat that you desire. Take time with this part and ensure that the pleats are even along the curtains.
Always check your packaging before purchase to ensure that what you expect is inside. Manufacturers may give the measurements and uses of their products differently to how we have explained here.
We hope that this has been a super useful guide to measuring curtains and choosing from the vast number available. Please bookmark this site (Ctrl+D) for future reference.
Thank you for reading!