I’m not always mindlessly following all the home decor rules, but when it came to choosing a length for my curtains, I followed what I had always heard. In my case, it was that the curtains had to puddle slightly on the floor – and that made perfect sense to me.
I’m a firm believer that curtains should be hung as high as possible and still reach the floor, even if your window doesn’t. The bigger the curtains, the more luxurious your space, so this surely applies to every last inch of fabric, which means the curtains should definitely touch the floor.
However, when it came to the curtains in my own living room (which I hemmed to carve myself), I quickly realized the problems with having curtains bunching up on the floor. If you’re using a textile that has even a little structure, so basically anything but linen, the pile of curtains can warp a bit upon hitting the floor – not ideal if you want curtains perfect. Also, between vacuumings, the curtains just pick up dust from my hardwood floors when they close them.
So, do the curtains really have to touch the floors? I set out to find a definitive answer with the help of a few interior designers. Here is what they told me.
Luke Arthur Wells
Luke is a design writer and blogger, named as one of The Times’ Top Interiors Instagram Accounts to Follow. He spoke to interior designers and experts to get a definitive answer on whether curtains should touch the floor in a contemporary home.
Can I leave a space between the curtains and the floor?
Turns out, it may actually be the best option for modern window treatments. “Our rule of thumb is that we usually keep them 1/4″ off the floor,” says interior designer Lisa Staton. “It keeps them long and generous, but doesn’t catch dust.”
Of course, 1/4″ is a very small gap, and there is clearly a thin line between the curtains touching the floor and a gap that makes your floor curtains look too short – the pushers of window processing world.
It’s a concern that drives designers like Becky Shea to opt for curtains that barely touch the floor. “I equate curtains that don’t touch the floor to a bad haircut when your bangs are too short, it never looks good,” says Becky.
If you are ordering (or hemming) curtains yourself, there is clearly a small margin of error when measuring the curtains. However, if they do arrive and are a bit off from what you were hoping for, there is always the option of hanging your curtain rod a little higher.
If you’re working with a professional, interior designers Berkeley Minkhorst and Kelley Lentini, founders and directors of nomad house (opens in a new tab) have the words to eloquently describe what you want. “Our general rule is that curtains should ‘kiss’ the floor,” they explain. “This look is always polished, classic and modern, which complements our aesthetic.”
Are puddle curtains out of fashion?
Longer, puddled curtains are more the domain of traditional period homes looking for fulfillment. “If customers ask, we ‘puddle’ them, but that’s not our normal choice,” Lisa tells us.
If you decide your curtains touch the floor, they really should only touch the floor – this makes them the perfect length to block out light, drafts and provide that luxurious look, without being too impractical. Larger puddles aren’t particularly trendy right now, but paired with a contemporary textile, a light puddle always looks fresh.
“In the design world, we refer to the moment the drapery hits the floor as the ‘break’ and the material beyond that laid on the floor as the ‘puddle,'” says designer Becky Shea .We never recommend going beyond 1/2″ for the puddle and in some cases just skimming the floor.’
Does your choice of textile make a difference?
When dealing with such fine measurement margins, it helps to know how different fabrics react. “Linen, for example, will always move and shrink, growing with the seasons,” advises Lisa Staton.
When using natural fibers like cotton, silk, or wool, they also tend to stretch when hung, which can change your spread over time, especially with heavier materials. In this case, a puddle on the floor will also help take some of the weight off your curtains.