Curtain mistakes to avoid – 5 curtain fixes interior experts want you to know

Investing in new drapes? Here’s how to make sure your curtains fit into your scheme, the expert way

Kitchen curtains
(Image credit: Alicia Taylor)

When transforming a room, it is natural to begin with large surface areas of color – whether you’re opting for a new wall paint or a statement rug. However, while these features are undeniably impactful, there remains another powerful way to elevate your space: with curtains and drapes. 

Drapes and curtains don't just add a splash of color and pattern, they also control the light levels in your room, meaning they can affect the color of your walls and, in some cases, make the room feel larger (or smaller, if you get them wrong).  

With such an influence, it is important to spend extra time considering your curtain ideas before making a commitment, or investment. And, even when you have made your purchase, the process doesn’t end there. 

5 curtain mistakes to avoid – according to the experts

Wondering how to hang curtains with a perfect finish? Here are the most common curtain mistakes to avoid the next time you’re renovating your window scape. 

1. Not considering curtains for privacy

dressing table with rattan chair, white linen slipcover chair, gray dressing table, voile curtains and beamed ceiling

(Image credit: Mark Bolton)

Alongside their aesthetic qualities, drapes and curtains are, above all, functional pieces. And while they are best used to block out sunlight, they are also tools for privacy. Therefore, it is important to consider this when choosing the right material for your home. Thankfully, though, it is possible to guarantee privacy without sacrificing style. 

‘If overlooked, sheer voiles conceal the window and provide privacy while allowing light and giving room softness and elegance,’ says Camilla Clarke, the creative director at Albion Nord. ‘Clever window dressing is the most obvious answer; an architectural forged curtain pole and heavy linen curtains will give an understated sense of luxury and warmth.’ 

2. Mis-measuring the window size

White living room with curtains in Schumacher's Full Circle, Jungle fabric

(Image credit: Styling Katrin Cargill / photograph jan Baldwin)

It may seem obvious to focus on the size when considering your future window treatment ideas, but expert Paige Anderson from Nitido Design warns that this step is often misunderstood. 

'Curtains should be proportional to the size of the window. If they are too small and they will look out of place. If they are too large and they will overwhelm the space,' she says. 

To guarantee the right size, Architectural Draftsman Zaeem Chaudhary from AC Designs has a formula. 'As a general rule, measure the width of the window and multiply it by two to get the width of your curtains. The idea is to enhance fullness while avoiding a bed sheet appearance,' he says. 

'From top to bottom, calculate just a few inches from the ceiling to the floor to get the proper curtain length.'

3. Hanging the curtain rod in the wrong place

Library with wooden table, chandelier and plaid rug and curtain

(Image credit: Janet Mesic/ Mackie Photography)

While calculating the correct curtain length is impactful, is equally important that you hang the rod in the right place. 'The curtain rod should be hung at the correct height, typically about four inches above the window frame,' Paige says. 

To find the correct size of your curtain rod, you should measure the width of the window and add around 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30cm) for each side of the window. Then add approximately 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61cm) to your total. 

4. Purchasing low-cost curtain hardware 

Romantic bedroom with privacy curtains

(Image credit: Gunter & Co)

While it is tempting to invest lots into your drape or curtain material, Zaeem urges you to spend on your curtain hardware too. 

He warns against rods that are not capable of supporting the weight of your curtains or one that is not long enough for the job – or your larger investment in textiles may be for nothing. 

'You may end up with drapes that cover the majority of your windows,' he says. 'And for grommeted panels, do not use a rod that is too thin. Make sure you get a rod that is both sturdy and appealing.'

5. Forgetting to iron before hanging

Curtain hanging above the window

(Image credit: Future / James Balston)

'Many people overlook the ironing procedure when it comes to their curtains,' the architecture expert warns. If so, your drapes and curtains will appear wrinkled and will not fall straight for the majority of the time. 'Make the most of the beauty and practicality that your curtains may bring by utilizing them to their full potential,' he adds. 

Whether you're experimenting with bedroom, kitchen, or living room ideas, a quick iron before hanging will accentuate your space seamlessly and give the curated look you desire. 

What not to when choosing curtains?

Never under-estimate the amount of fabric you need for your curtains. If you choose too little, the curtains will look mean when pulled back and will pull flat when drawn. 

'Ideally, fabric panels for curtains, when combined, should be two to two and a half times the width of the window,' says Lucy Searle, Homes & Gardens' Editor in Chief. This way, curtains will look full when closed and generous when open.'

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.