Determining the proper length for your drapes can seem tricky, but getting it right makes a big difference in the look and functionality of your windows. Follow these guidelines on how low your drapes should go to ensure they are just right.
When choosing new drapes, one of the most important decisions is the length. Drapes that are too short look skimpy and unfinished. Drapes that are too long overwhelm the window and floor. So what is the optimal length? Here we discuss the factors to consider when determining how low your drapes should go.
How to Measure Drapes
When deciding how long your drapes should be, the first step is to accurately measure your windows. Here’s how to measure:
- Measure the height of the rod you plan to use for hanging the drapes. Include any clearance needed above the window frame.
- Measure the overall width of the window or area you plan to cover. Make sure to account for the overlap beyond the window edges.
- For floor-length drapes, measure from the rod down to the floor.
Once you have the measurements, you can use the guidelines below to determine the ideal finished length for your drapes.
General Guidelines on Length
As a general rule of thumb, drapes should extend:
- Above the Window – Extend 3-12 inches above the window frame. Allows room to stack drapes when opened.
- Below the Window Sill – Extend to the window sill or 3-12 inches below. Prevents light gaps.
- At the Floor – Ideally, 1/2 inch above to 1/2 inch below the floor. Adjust if puddling is a concern.
However, you can fine tune the lengths based on your specific needs and style preferences.
Factors that Determine Drape Length
Several factors come into play when fine tuning your preferred drape length:
Light blocking – Choose a longer length to the floor to fully block light gaps.
Privacy – Extend below the window sill to prevent views inside. Go all the way to the floor for maximum privacy.
Softness – For a soft, elegant look let the drapes puddle on the floor slightly.
Fit the window – Size drapes to neatly frame the window rather than overwhelm it.
Carpet – Puddling to the floor is fine. Drapes help define carpet edges.
Hard floors – Allow 1/2 inch above floor minimum to avoid safety risks. Prevent puddling.
Uneven floors – Adjust length to account for variations in floor level.
Formal – Floor length drapes look elegant and finished.
Casual – Above the knee creates a relaxed, casual aesthetic.
Modern – Precise lengths to the window sill look tailored and sleek.
Small windows – Long floor length drapes can overwhelm the size of a small window. Opt for above sill length.
Large windows – Oversized windows can handle the grandeur of long, floor-length drapes.
High ceilings – With high ceilings, drapes should be longer to suit the scale of the space.
There are a few special factors to keep in mind as you evaluate the optimal length for your drapes.
Puddling is when extra material piles up on the floor. It creates softness but can be a tripping risk. Here are some tips to minimize problems:
- Use heavy fabrics like velvet that will not blow around easily.
- Consider weights or hems along bottom edges.
- Allow minimal puddling of 1-2 inches.
Make sure drapes will clear any obstructions near the bottom:
- Baseboard heaters
- Window air conditioning units
Measure carefully and adjust length if needed.
Layering Window Treatments
If using layered treatments like sheer behind blackout drapes, adjust lengths so edges align and heights complement each other.
For drapes used outdoors, allow extra length for billowing effects from breezes. Consider fabrics that resist fading and mildew.
Drape Length by Room
Ideal drape lengths can vary depending on the room they are used in.
The living room is a place where you want an elegant, finished look. Here, floor length drapes are recommended. Size them to puddle slightly on the floor for a soft effect. For small windows, above sill length also looks proportional.
Privacy and light blocking are priorities in the bedroom. Choose floor length drapes that fully cover the windows. Allow them to stack attractively off the floor when opened.
Kitchens demand a more practical approach. Choose above sill length drapes sized specifically for each window. This tailored look complements the functional nature of the space.
Bathroom windows require privacy. Floor length drapes that can be fully drawn are ideal. Use washable fabrics in case of splashes.
Create an undistracted work environment by covering windows with drapes. Above sill lengths allow some natural light but also provide privacy.
Floor length blackout drapes help darken the nursery for naptime and nighttime. Make sure drapes are kid-safe by avoiding dangling cords.
Hanging the Rod at the Right Height
Proper drape length also depends on the rod installation height. Hang rods:
- At least 3-4 inches above the window frame
- Adjusted to account for length of drapes
- With clearance for drapes to stack when opened
Remember to measure for the rod height first before finalizing drape lengths.
Cutting Drapes to the Correct Length
When purchasing drapes, you will likely need to hem them to a customized length. Here are some tips:
- Leave extra length until after hanging
- Use clips to mark desired length
- Hem drapes 2-3 inches at a time until right length is achieved
- For floor length, cut with a slight break
- Steam and straighten hems so they hang properly
Perfecting the drape length is worth the effort. Take your time to ensure the final product looks polished.
Determining how low your drapes should go is an important decision that impacts both aesthetics and functionality. Follow the general guidelines to choose a length that suits your needs. Factor in special considerations like puddling and clearances. Allow ample length during installation so drapes can be test hung and hemmed to the perfect length. Drapes with just the right amount of floor clearance look tailored and elegant, while properly framing your windows. Get the length right, and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful windows that showcase your drapes at their best.
FAQs About Drape Length
Still have questions about how low your drapes should go? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.
Should drapes touch the floor?
They can, but it is not required. Lightly kissing the floor creates a soft, elegant look in formal spaces. But in casual, everyday spaces drapes can stop just above the floor.
How long should drapes be for 8 foot ceilings?
For 8 foot ceilings, a good rule of thumb is to use floor length drapes. Hanging the rod a few inches above the window frame allows the drapes to gracefully reach the floor.
Are floor length drapes outdated?
Not at all! Floor length drapes are classic and timeless. They add sophistication and luxury to a space. Both vintage and modern settings can benefit from full length drapes.
Should I get extra long drapes?
That depends on the look you want. Extra long drapes that abundantly puddle on the floor create a dramatic, opulent effect. But they also risk becoming a trip hazard if too excessive.
What length drapes for 9 foot ceilings?
With 9 foot ceilings, extending drapes all the way to the floor maintains good proportions. Adjust rod height so the drapes have space to neatly stack when opened.
How long should drapes be for patio doors?
For patio doors, choose lengths that frame the door rather than overwhelming it. Floor length drapes can drag and become dirty. Above sill length is ideal.
Where should drapes fall relative to window trim?
Ideally, drapes should be sized to correspond with the window trim for a tailored look. Align the bottom with the trim, or extend 1-3 inches below depending on the look you prefer.
Final Tips for Measuring Drapes
- Record all window measurements for reference.
- Account for clearance under ceiling mounted rods.
- Confirm lengths after test hanging drapes.
- Drapes can always be hemmed shorter if too long.
- Use drape weights for floor length fabrics.
- Be prepared to make minor length adjustments.
- Proper measuring ensures the perfect drape lengths.
So in summary – take the time to accurately measure your windows, consider your needs and preferences, and use the guidelines provided here to determine the optimal drape length to beautifully dress your windows. Drapes with properly proportioned lengths can take your room from drab to dramatically fabulous.