The Curtain Mistake That's Making Your Room Feel Smaller

Curtains fall into the unique category of home décor and furnishings that are not only pleasant to look at, but functional and, in some cases, necessary. Whether you prefer delicate sheer fabrics, heavy blackout curtains so you can sleep in peace, or a more dramatic look like velvet, they're a great addition to any room, providing privacy and blocking light, while adding decorative appeal.

That is, assuming you've chosen the right curtains, as well as made sure they're hung correctly. The way you hang your curtains can make or break their effectiveness. Done correctly, they can help make your windows look large and eye-catching, as well as make the room as a whole feel larger, the walls feel taller, and so on. Done wrong, though, they can have the complete opposite effect, making the room feel smaller and cramped while shrouding your windows. Since curtains also block out the light, in the wrong position they'll make the area feel dark and confined.

Curtains should brush the floor

Curtains can do wonders to make your windows look elongated and create the illusion of taller walls and a bigger room. The biggest trick to achieving this is making sure they're the right length. "As for a general rule, floor length or just a little above is an interior designer's favorite trick to maximize a small room," says Maggie Griffin, founder and principal designer of Maggie Griffin Design, in an interview with Homes and Gardens. Ideally, your drapes should either touch the floor, or fall to just above it. Your eyes will naturally follow the length of the curtain, so panels that are the same length or shorter than the windows can make everything look stubby and cut off.

Hanging curtains at an appropriate height is not as important as their length, but it certainly factors into the overall appearance. Similar to long curtains elongating your windows from the bottom, hanging them roughly 4 inches above the frame can make them seem taller from the top. Depending on the height of your windows, it can even have a floor-to-ceiling effect.

Exceptions to the rule

Hanging your curtains high and allowing them to fall all the way down to the floor is only applicable if your windows have shallow sills. If you have deeper windowsills or a window seat, hanging your curtains this way may look a little awkward. The same can be said if you have to hang your curtains inside the sill frame, instead of above. In this case, hang the curtains entirely within the window frame, opting for a length that hits the bottom of the sill or window seat. When in doubt, go longer and let the fabric pool in the frame or hem the excess.

The kitchen is another place to avoid floor length curtains. With so much food moving around, they're likely to get dirtier a lot quicker if they're touching the kitchen floor than they would in a room with less activity, like your living room or bedroom. You also want to steer clear of flowy fabric that moves a lot for safety reasons. This logic can be extended to your bathroom windows — no one wants moldy curtains from wet floors. In the bathroom, either hang your curtains to the length of your windowsill regardless of depth, or just above the floor so they don't touch.