12 Professional Tips on Drapery Length

by Christine on May 30, 2010

Color blocked drapery panels to be packaged and delivered by Just For Looks Custom Drapery

Industry standards or acceptable practices of drapery lengths…

… aren’t always followed in today’s design world.  Drapery length is predicated on what the homeowner wants first and foremost but in the absence of special requests, there is a rule of thumb for almost every situation. Here’s 12 tips from a professional drapery workroom.

  1. Full length panels – The most typical drapery length today is ½ inch off the floor.  For floor to ceiling drapes, calculate ½ inch from top also so there isn’t any rubbing on either surface causing premature wearing.
  2. Drapes hung just above a window should be at least 4 inches above so that the header (top hem) is not seen when sunlight shines through.
  3. In the event that there’s a baseboard heater, drapes should be just ABOVE the heater.
  4. Drapes may extend 4 to 12 inches above the window when using decorative rods otherwise those rods are ‘lost’ when placed at ceiling height.
  5. The length of your drapes is also determined by appropriate proportions and whether or not you are using a valance or cornice, especially when your ceilings are higher than a typical 8 feet. Discuss proportion with your interior designer or drapery workroom! There are important formulas here that I will discuss in another post.
  6. “Breaking” –  A one inch break is often used for stationary panels where the hem stays put after being arranged.  The “break” looks like the dent fabric makes when the hem of a pant leg touches the shoe. A break on functional drapes isn’t requested as often anymore (in my location) as people don’t want the drapes sweeping the floor with each opening and closing.
  7. A break may be calculated for drapes that will be drawn in a tieback as it allows for some extra draping length below the tieback.
  8. “Puddling” – Usually 15 inches extra arranged in a natural puddle on the floor is meant to create  an atmosphere of romance, opulence or a formal, historical statement.
  9. Puddling is ideal for stationary drapes but almost never for functional drapes because of the floor mopping every time the drapes are open and closed. Make sure that the motif of the fabric matches the style as it would look odd if, for example, funky, tie dyed yardage was used to create a romantic or historical look.
  10. Short Drapes – Generally speaking, drapes can end at the window sill, the bottom of the molding or 4 inches below the bottom of the window. It’s ideal not to see the 4 inch hem when the sun is shining through.
  11. When there are several windows in a room with varying dimensions, personally, I would make the lengths consistent so there is more visual balance in the room.
  12. Another common question for shorter windows is “should they be long or short drapes?”.  Whole chapters are written  on this but my rule of thumb is…  if you can afford it, make them long. Drapery is like furniture. When it is higher, longer, wider, it adds a richer visual effect with more character and loveliness to your décor.
Professional Drapery Workrooms - Window Coverings Association of America

Just For Looks Custom Drapery member of Window Coverings Association of America

These are just a few considerations when designing drapery. No matter how beautiful the fabric is, a window treatment will look odd or spoiled if length and width aren’t carefully planned for.  Ask your interior designer or workroom… Ask here!

Besides being a ‘pillow maker extraordinaire’, I own and operate Just For Looks Custom Drapery, a professional window covering design and fabrication workroom. Leave your questions, or your comments about what is typical in your area. I would be ever so pleased to share information.

Cheers! Christine… aka PillowThrowDecor

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  • sonic

    Interesting post. I know that the puddling look is very popular these days, expecially in Canadian House and Home, Style at Home, etc, but they usually show it with a really expensive silk, which I'm sure costs a bundle. Also with the puddling, it just looks “wrong” to me for some reason. Like someone couldn't be bothered to hem their drapes properly. Maybe that's just my inner minimalist speaking… …

  • http://www.pillowthrowdecor.com PillowThrowDecor

    LOL… I'm with you Sonic! Hey Sonic What till you see what I did with the “ugly shirt”.

  • Anonymous

    Drapery selection is not an easy work. It should be proper in length and colour.  It colour should be compatible with home furniture and wall colour.

    roman blinds

  • Anitahanaburgh

    I have two window with a radiator under them and two without. They are not on the same wall. Can. I do two short and two long drapes. The room is very formal

  • Kee Peggy56

    What is the best way to handle fabric? I have 3 1/2 panels sewn together and the same amt to do again. They are very heavy! Wa

  • Z_zulu

    I am an intermediate home decor sewer, so this information is very helpful. I have made a pair of inverted box pleat drapes for two separate bedrooms. Each time I used 1 and 1/2 widths of fabric for each panel, and I think the proportion of fabric to wall was fine. I’m about to tackle my home office which has two windows, and I am concerned that four panels each with 1 and 1/2 widths will just be too much fabric on the wall, particularly when the curtains are drawn. Are these any guidelines addressing the correct proportion of fabric to wall? Can I to down to 1 width per panel (rather than 1 and 1/2) without negatively impacting my project? My windows are 41″ wide. My wall is 12 feet wide, and I have ceilings that are only 91″ tall.

  • Nancy56

    I’m altering 2 panels for my kitchen bow window. The window is 47L x 70W. Trying to decide how long past the window frame they should be altered. At the moment I have them pinned at 14″ past frame. Too long?

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