I am asked again and again, “How long should full-length draperies be?” Clients want to know if their drapes should puddle, break at the floor, or hover just right above it. These variations are left over from a time before central heating and air conditioning, when people put up drapes for protection from the elements more than for light and privacy control. Today, far from hanging an animal pelt over the entry to a cave, we have stylistic options to consider. Often in design, there are no right or wrong answers. Either you like it or you don’t. But here are some guidelines to help you think about your choices so you can pick the drapery length that is right for you:
For a practical, casual look, leave just a finger width of space between the floor and the hem of the drapes. Dust won’t gather, and the hem will stay clean. This is a great length for the family room or any high-traffic area. It’s also a great length if your pets shed or your drapes sit next to the backyard patio door where dirt is dragged in on a regular basis.
For a stylish, tailored look, have a slight break at the bottom, A break is a fold or bend above the hem, which is created when the fabric is longer than required to reach the floor. Here, an inch or two of extra length creates a slight break.
A slight break can work with a contrasting banding to create a custom look. These made-to-measure details are the hallmarks of custom drapery design professionals. An extra half-inch can be just enough for a stylish break.
For a non-fuss fit in a gracious room, hang draperies to just brush the floor. This length is often used in modern homes where crisp simplicity is preferred, but it also complements traditional décor.
This can be a tricky length to master, however, because any inconsistencies in floor and ceiling — more common than you might think — will be clearly revealed. Quality professional drapery hardware will allow for slight adjustments to be made during installation to camouflage any irregularity caused by uneven floors and ceilings.
Puddling goes beyond a simple break; it moves into a sense of excess. Overly-long curtains were first used to insulate windows during winter, but later were a sign of wealth and excess. Puddled drapes can add just as much grandeur and drama to your home today.
Depending on what fabric and style you choose, puddled drapes can make a space feel more formal or casual. Go with velvet, silk, and heavy weight fabrics for a fancy look, and linen or other gauzy fabrics if you want a relaxed vibe that won’t look too fussy if left a bit unkempt at the bottom.
Much like the difference between a break in faded jeans versus a break in suit pants or dress trousers, one kind of fabric will look casual, another stylish. Fabric and style work hand-in-hand here. If you are using silk draperies, leave a couple of extra inches and add elegant hardware for a formal and dressy look.
For an opulent look, really push the length overboard. The flowing puddle method is most often used to reinforce a sense of history in a traditional or historic home and reinforces the formal setting.
This is not a low-maintenance design solution — you need to arrange the excess fabric to sit just the way you like it. We recommend choosing a pinch pleat or tab top style. Grommet and rod pocket drapes won’t fold quite as well to get a good puddled look. Add six- to sixteen-inches to your length, train drapes to fold uniformly all the way down, and then let the fabric form a true ‘pool’ that flows out from your panels. Long pooling curtains are best as decorative side panels that won’t be opened or closed.
For a more stacked, puddled look, add six- to twelve-inches to your length and arrange drapes in an elegantly rumpled pile. Get the look by training drapes, lifting up the folds, and then dropping them down allowing them to crunch into a pile at the base of the panels. You can also give drapes a soft pillowy look by folding the fabric under and poofing it out. For this look, fabricate drapes twelve- to eighteen-inches longer.
An Art and a Science
A Certified Drapery and Design Professional has the insight and expertise to turn a homeowner’s inspirations into reality. Using a knowledgeable professional is also a cost-effective way to achieve your goals in a timely and stress-free fashion.
At Staging Spaces and Redesign, all of our fabrics, linings, and trims are all first quality, plus, our drapery workroom is on-site, so we oversee your window treatments every step of the way. We offer professional installation for all of our custom window treatments, since a beautiful window treatment is only appreciated when properly installed. This not only takes a tasteful eye, but the use of the best and safest measures possible.
You won’t find your window treatments in anyone else’s home! Custom draperies are always sized to fit your particular windows, whether they are standard, arched or specialty shaped. Staging Spaces and Redesign also has an array of decorative hardware and trims not found in local retail locations. All of these elements make your window treatments one-of-a-kind.
Helen Houston is a certified drapery and design professional. She is the owner of Staging Spaces and Redesign, and is also certified in interior color, texture, and paint solutions. Contact Helen at
(702) 346-0246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.