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How to Choose the Right Curtain Length

How to Measure for Standard Curtains

Living Room with Bali Drapes

Nothing dresses up a window like curtains and drapery. And getting your Bali custom drapery to look and fit just right is easy.

How to Measure for Curtains and Drapes

Bali offers a complete guide to measuring your windows for curtains and drapery. This guide outlines the simple steps you should follow when placing your order. But here is the process in a nutshell.

First measure the width and the projection of the curtain rod. The width measures that face of the curtain rod or decorative pole. The projection is the distance from the wall to the front of the rod or pole. The length, with some exceptions, is the distance from the top of the curtain rod to where you would like the bottom edge of the drapery to stop.

It’s just three easy measurements. Using those measurements, Bali will custom make a drapery with just the right amount of fullness and depth for your window.

Before You Measure

Before you take out you metal tape measure, take a minute to consider what you you’re looking for in your window drapery. A great place to start is looking at three factors: overall look, total width, and length/style (the most important of all the factors).

Selecting Curtains

Consider the Overall Look

The overall look of your window treatment comes from the style of drapery you choose—pleated, rod-mounted, grommet, tab, or “pleated on pole with rings.” A rod-mounted drapery, for example, with its tight gathers, looks more formal than the tab-mounted drapery with its soft folds.

The drapery style also determines the rod style you can choose—for example, rod-mounted, grommet, and tab-style draperies utilize a decorative pole whereas the pleated-on-pole-with-rings style drape requires, not surprisingly, a special pole with rings.

Total Width

When deciding on the width of the curtain rod, it is largely a matter of choice. There are designers who suggest that ten is a magic number—ten inches on either side of the window as well as mounting the rod ten inches above the window—but there really is no “rule of 10” or any other hard-and-fast rules because no two windows or rooms are the same.

It is widely accepted that the curtain rod should extend at least four inches to either side of the window and can extend much farther to accommodate the curtains when they are in the open position (known as “stack back”). In some instances—such as when the drapes are made of thick material that makes a big, fat stack when the window is open—the curtain rod can be more than one-third longer than the total width of the window.

Length—the Primary Factor

When we think of curtain length, it might help to think of clothing. A pair of shorts has a very different sense of formality than a long pair of dress pants. And an ankle-length dress makes a different statement than a regal gown with yards of fabric piled on the floor.

The same thing goes for curtains and drapery. The length of the drapery is the most powerful attribute. The effect of specific drapery lengths is so pronounced that design experts have identified five distinct categories:

Sill length

Runs almost down to the sill. A light and casual feel.

Apron length

Runs just past the bottom of the window apron. Tidy and practical.

Floor length

Stops two inches from the floor. Confident, chic. Very popular length.

Trouser length

Breaks at the floor. Clean, sophisticated. Works well with crisp fabrics.

Puddle length

Piles up on the floor. Regal, dramatic. The ball gown of window treatments.


These aren’t standard curtain lengths, just suggested styles. Every Bali custom drapery is cut to your specifications, meaning your drapery is made to fit your unique window.

One More Thing: How High?

Yes, there is one more factor to consider—how high to mount your curtains. Curtain rods should be mounted above the window casing. Again, there are no hard-and-fast rules. There are designers who think ten inches above the window is a fine place to install a curtain rod, although most people choose three or four inches. An extra tall set of drapes can present a tall and stately look—but it can also look out of proportion in some rooms. There’s a very good chance that you’re the one who knows best. So, be confident. Make a choice, measure accurately, and you’re going to have a great looking window.

Last—But Not Least—Fabrics

Perhaps the best reason for choosing traditional drapery for your window is the incredible array of fabrics. Light filtering, sheer, room darkening, boldly colored, subtly tinted---the choices are endless. For a formal look, choose a heavy, deeply colored fabric that puddles on the floor. For, a soft and airy look, choose sheer drapes cut sill length. Bright colors and lively patterns can transform a room. Subdued earth tones can create a sense of calm. Need help deciding? Order free swatches from Bali.

Pick your fabric first or last—it’s up to you. Just be sure to give yourself a chance to think about the overall effect you want to get out of your window treatment. It never hurts to sketch out your ideas on paper. Even if you’re not a great draughtsman—few of us are—getting some basic shapes and proportions on the page helps you to think about the room as a whole. To see examples of Bali window treatments, find a store near you.

Caring for Curtains and Drapery is Easy

Once you’ve hung your curtains and your project is complete, it’s time to enjoy your newly transformed room. Caring for drapery is straightforward. Follow the directions on the labels you’ll find on the back of the drapery. Some fabrics can be machine washed while others will require special care. Just follow the label.