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My 5 top tips for getting a designer curtain look, but on a budget

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

Tip #1 Hang your curtains high and wide!

As for the width, if you have the room, hang your curtains extra wide to open up the feeling of the space and let more natural light in. If the curtains will be used to open and close to block out the light, be sure to measure the width of your window and the width of the curtain you are buying to make sure that they will cover the window when closed. Most standard windows are about 36" wide and most curtains are about 50" wide so.. you get a buffer of about 14" to play around with.

side note: if you are buying curtains with grommets.. it does take away some of the width because you can't pull the curtains all the way flat, so just keep that in mind.

So my suggestion is to hang your curtains at least 4-8" wider than that window (not trim). This will allow the curtains to pull closed and still keep the curtains at the end of the curtain rod for a finished look when closed. Also, when opened, it allows the curtains room to sit without blocking the natural light of the window. This also helps the windows look larger and fill the space around the window so it looks like a more complete look! If you don't have much room on the sides of your windows because of an adjacent wall or object..keep reading.. I have more tips for you below!

Ok, back to high and wide..

Every situation is different but with most windows you will have some space above the windows before coming to the ceiling so you should hang your curtains about 8-12" above the top of the window or trim. Never.. I'll repeat.. Never.. hang your curtains on your window trim! Haha. Honestly, in design, you can never really say never..but.. its a good rule of thumb that you will have an option to hang curtain rods above your trim.

side note: If you have an extra tall trim at the top, consider whether curtains are even a good look for that space or if maybe a different shade would be a better option!

This brings me to my next tip...

Tip #2 Get the right length!

You've probably heard it before but this is just my little reminder of just how important it is to get the right size curtains for your space!! The average curtain panel sizes usually come in 84", then 96"-103", and on. Don't just settle for the 84" curtain panels because they are the cheapest! With most of the new construction homes, the windows sit at about.. 92" from the floor. So... most of the time the 84" curtain panels will be too short! Don't just settle because you like the length off the floor some. Also, if you do like the length off the floor some then I would suggest to go no more than 2" off the floor. Any more and the length might just look too short on accident.

This may mean that you might have to spend a little extra on curtains or get them hemmed but honestly its worth it! Curtains make a huge statement in a space and going the extra step will make a space feel completely transformed. As for hemming, ask around and I'm sure you can find someone who can hem for a reasonable price. I know a lady who does each cut for $10 so it would just be an added $20 onto a set of panels, worth every penny! You can also hem yourself by busting out your grandma's sewing machine which I have done on many occasions or use iron on hem tape!

Tip #3 Buy the right curtains for your space

I have had many clients over the years want sheer curtains so that they feel light and airy and don't cover the window so much.. in some instances sheer works, but don't let that be your reasoning for going with sheer. If you hang your curtains the correct way, they are meant to frame your windows, not cover your windows! Hanging them high and wide means that the curtains will sit on the wall beside the windows and all your natural light will still shine in. When picking out curtains for clients, I almost always go with a thicker curtain or one with a liner. They don't have to be blackout, but just something that has a bit of weight to them. It helps the curtains to look richer and make a statement more on their own. If you are going for a light and airy feel then choose a linen. If you are going for a moody look then go with a velvet. The possibilities are endless.. below are a few of my favorites.

Tip #4 Choose the right rod and hardware

The days of thick rods are out, thank goodness, and the ways to hang curtains have changed as well. When looking at rods, don't get one any larger than 3/4" and you could even go as small as 1/2" diameter. 3/4" is a great standard and allows enough heaviness to balance the look of the curtains while not taking too much attention away from them. I sometimes use 1/2" diameter curtains when working with skinnier curtains which I'll explain that in my next tip!

There are also many curtain hanging styles, grommet, back tab, and pocket are the most popular. I suggest either back tab or pocket for a more designer look! Also with these two styles, the options of how to hang them are many. You can simply use the back tab or pocket to hang the rods or you can use curtain ring clips or rings and drapery hooks to attach to the curtains as well. For the most designer look, I would suggest the curtain rings and drapery hooks but the curtain ring clips are easier to obtain at a great price! Here are some examples below..

and lastly.. my final tip for when you have little space on the sides of your windows or if you are not looking to close the curtains to block out the light..

Tip #5 Cut it in half and get the right finial style

Ok so this is one that I use often for my clients! Like, all the time if I can! Most people are just looking to use curtains to make the space look complete and either don't need the privacy of closing them or they also get shades of some sort to use as the privacy feature of their windows.

*I also use this trick if there is not enough space on the sides of the windows to put them that extra wide 4-8". I buy one panel, and have it cut in half length wise to make two panels for the windows!

side note: by cutting them in half, the panels are now on average about 25" wide so they will not close and actually cover all of the window.. just keep that in mind

This saves my client a lot of money by only buying one panel for each window instead of two and that money saved can go to the alterations or getting them cut in half (and most likely hemmed as well). So let's say a curtain panel is $40/each so it would be $80/set. My alterations lady costs $10/alteration so 4 alterations (two side seams and two hems on each panel) would be $40. So it would still cost $80 for the curtains but they are fully customized to the correct width and length.. Creating that designer look for less, which is what we all want, right?

side note: if you use thinner texture curtains and cutting them in half.. this might be where I would suggest to use a 1/2" curtain rod diameter instead of the 3/4" so that it balances the sizing of the thinner curtains.

I'm going to add this to tip #5 bc they work especially well if you have little room on the sides of your windows, but I love and recommend this curtain rod style for every window.. Opt for the french return rod! It is a beautiful designer look and because there is no finial, you can get the curtain as wide as you can and hang the rod almost all the way to the side wall.

side note: make sure to get the wider rod style based not on your window size, but on the width that you will actually be hanging your curtains! Most likely the 48" max width rod will not be long enough if you are hanging your curtains an extra 6-8" on each side. They do get weaker in the middle as you expand the width as well so just keep that in mind when buying.

These are my top tips for getting a designer look for less! Implementing these tips will make your windows look larger, keep them balanced for the space, and help eliminate empty spaces. This, in turn, saves money because it means buying less decor on the walls around your windows!


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