This is a simple task, and the rules are not set in stone. If they were, no two designers would completely agree on them anyways. So, armed with a few basic guidelines, your own personal tastes, and some pictures from our design ideas, you can do a wonderful job of covering any window or group of windows.
How to measure windows for Return Rods, or French curtain rods, Simple version:
Return rods have a 90 degree return back to the wall. One advantage of this is that you can utilize this curved area of the rod to stack the drape which will reduce the wall space that the curtain stack requires to clear the window. Keep in mind that it does look nice to have your curtains loosely gathered and not bunched up tight when drawn so opt for a bit longer rod rather than crowding the window with the drapes. Return rods are measured just like straight rods, the overall length on your wall. A 60″ return rod will measure exactly 60″ on your wall.
Measure the window width, and add enough on each side so that the drapes will block the light around the sides of the window, and allow the drape to slide sufficiently off of the window when they are opened. This measurement is the drapery rod length. Now make sure you have room beyond that measurement for the drapery rod finials you like, and you are ready to order your rods. Go to ironhardware.com to place your online order.
Extended version with FAQ, details, and measuring tips:
Larger windows require more drapery rod width because typically you will put more Drapery fabric on a larger window, and that requires more stacking width, and therefore more drapery rod width.
Hang the drapery high enough so it covers the top of the window by at least a few inches if possible. If you are using tab tops, tie tops, or clip rings, which will drop your drapery down a few inches below the rod, move the rod up a bit to compensate. If you want a taller, more vertical or palatial look, you might want to hang the draperies a little higher, or even from floor to ceiling. If you are using ready made draperies, check to see what sizes are available, and decide on the rod height accordingly. Most ready made drapery panels are available in 84″ length to cover the most common doors and windows which are around 80″ high. It is not uncommon to use an 84″ drapery panel on a 48″ high window. This will give you a uniform look if you have patio doors or sliders in the same room using 84″ drapery panels.
If you are concerned with dust, water or Early California ranch style grunge on the floor, you may want to stay off the floor a bit with the drapery but it is not uncommon for the drapery to puddle on the floor for a lavish look.
How much space do I need to stack my drapes off the window?
This is the million dollar question, and probably the most frequently asked. “Stacking width” is the width of your drape when it is pulled back off of the window, or when the drapes are pulled open. Chances are that your drapes will be open more than they are closed, and you will achieve a nicer look if you don’t try to stack the drapes too tightly when they are open, so allow plenty of room for the drapes to stack nicely, and measure accordingly to accommodate the drapes at the sides of the window. More fabric requires more stacking width, and pocket drapes require more stacking width than draperies on rings or tab tops. And by the way, rings slide much better than pockets or tabs.
I need a return rod that measures 60″ end to end on my wall. How long is a 60″ return rod?
Return rods are measured just like straight rods, to the outside edges. In other words, the wall measurement is the rod measurement. A 60″ return rod simply measures 60″ on your wall. The actual rod is of course much longer because it is bent at both ends but this does not apply to your task of fitting a rod to your space so we don’t confuse the issue with these details.
Do I need to clear the window when the drapes are opened?
Not necessarily. While it is practical to get the draperies out of the way of a slider or patio door, at some of your windows space may be an issue, or perhaps you don’t care for the view out of a particular window, or maybe you want to soften the edge of the window with a few inches of drapery fabric, or use tie backs for a swept back look. It is not necessary to clear the window when the drapes are opened.
Rod height, How will I hang my drapes on the Drapery rods?
Tab tops, tie tops, or clip rings will create 1″ to 6″ of space between the drapes and the drapery rod, for a more country or casual look. Eyelet rings will put the drapes about a half inch below the drapery rod, for a nicely finished or formal look, and pocket drapes put the drapery on the rod. This look can lend itself to formal or informal settings. Simply adjust the drapery rod height accordingly to make sure the drapery covers the top of the window. It usually looks good to go a little higher than lower. And by the way, rings slide much better than tabs or pockets.
Which direction to draw the drapery?
You may want to open the drapery all to one side for a number of reasons, because of foot traffic at a patio door or slider, or perhaps you have a wall with two big windows, and for visual impact you want to pull both draperies out and into the corners of the room with tie backs, medallions, or ball posts with tassels. It is usually helpful to look at the room as a big picture.
Should I group my windows and use one rod for multiple window?
Often, windows are set in groups with little space between them. Instead of trying to crowd finials and stacks of draperies in between each window, look at the whole wall for different possibilities. It is not uncommon to span the whole group of windows with one drapery rod , and group your drapery stacks between the windows and/or to the sides of the group.