Design Details: How High Should My Drapery Panels Be Hung?

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Last month, I wrote about drapery panel widths. This month, I’m going to talk about how high drapery panels should be.

Using some of the images I used on widths, I can also show the difference the height of the panels make. As you can see, below, mounting panels just above the window molding makes the space feel a little stumpy, doesn’t it?

How High Drapery Panels Should Be: Standard Window Heights

Drapery panel double width single window short

Hung higher, the space becomes immediately more elegant and also the ceilings feel higher. Basically, when the panels are hunger higher, they draw the eye upward which makes us think the ceilings are higher. Now, in this illustration, the room has a fairly standard 9′ ceiling height. It’s a little taller than average, but not super high.

Drapery panel double width single window tall

How High Drapery Panels Should Be: Vaulted Ceilings

Linda Merrill window treatment height high vaulted ceiling empty high drapery panels

Here’s an example from a small project I did for a client. Her family room is fairly small (maybe 9′ deep x 14′ wide). In other words, the viewpoint of the camera is pretty much where the wall is. However, the ceiling vaults to about 14 feet high. There is a slider on the right which is nearly full height of that wall, about 7’6″ and there was a smallish window on the left side wall which was right up to the ceiling (not shown). When the client’s renovated this room and the adjacent kitchen, they vaulted this ceiling, but didn’t want to replace the double window.

So, as you can see above, the double window sits pretty low and small in the room. Skipping the window treatments would result in the space feeling fairly stumpy because the eye would only rest at about 6′.

Linda Merrill window treatment height how high drapery panels vaulted ceiling

Below is an example of drapery panels hung at window height.  The added width is nice – making the window appear wider – but the height is still problematic.

Linda Merrill window treatment height high drapery panels vaulted ceiling low drapery

If the same panels are hung about 18″ above the window, it definitely draws the eye up, but the window itself still seems super tiny.

Linda Merrill window treatment height high vaulted ceiling drapery

Which is why bamboo shades (or you could do a fabric roman shade) are mounted just under the rod and down just below the top molding of the window. This allows the most light to come in, but tricks the eye into thinking the window is much larger (and therefor in proportion) to the scale of the room. In the case of these clients, they had not issues of privacy or need for light blocking. The window treatments are used solely to balance the space out and also add some softness and texture to the wall. This is also a much less expensive solution to replacing the window.

Linda Merrill window treatment height how high drapery panels vaulted ceiling drapery bamboo shade

And, a side-by-side comparison. Higher is better, no?

Linda Merrill window treatment height high drapery panels vaulted ceiling side by side

How High Drapery Panels Should Be: Miscellaneous

Bali blinds how high drapery panels
via Bali Blinds

Above is an promotional photo for Bali Blinds, so of course the blinds are featured. But it would have been nice to see the drapery hung a little higher, no?

Ballard designs Suzanne Kasler Banded Indoor Outdoor high drapery panels

Another promotional shot – this from Ballard Designs and Suzanne Kasler’s product line. I like how the drapery is hung below the half-circles. I hate when they are hung above the circle top windows.

Design Ann Shipp and Roger Higgins Photo Reid Rollis Traditional Home How high drapery panels
Design: Ann Shipp and Roger Higgins | Photo: Reid Rollis | via Traditional Home

Well, firstly, how gorgeous is this dining room above? I love how the drapery is so full and luxe. We don’t see a lot of swagged treatments these days, but this is a great way to do it so it still feels modern. Given the light bleed through the bamboo shades, it looks that this is a triple window and super high. So, unlike some of the other examples, this is one where covering up the window brings the scale down to human proportions – which is very smart especially in a room which is meant for sitting.

Photo Nathan Schroder Design Julie Dodson high drapery panels
Design: Julie Dodson | Photography: Nathan Schroder

And this is a gorgeous space with drapery panels hung high over the windows. What works about this is that the window treatments allow the gorgeous paneling to be highlighted. One of by big bug-a-boos about where drapery is often hung is that it ignores the architecture. Whether we’re trying to hide it, or highlight it, we have to consider it.

Romantic Homes how high drapery panels
via Romantic Homes  (designer unknown)

Here’s another vaulted ceiling.  Don’t you love how they mimicked the shape of the ceiling with the valance treatment? I don’t know if the window itself is curved, but the shape of the valance gives the impression that it is. They achieved the perfect scale with this window – high enough to be generous but not so high that it seems too skinny.

Sarah Richardson design how high drapery panels
Design: Sarah Richardson

Another of my bug-a-boos (I’m liking that word today!) is when there is too much wall space between the top of the window and the ceiling. So, I’m not of the option that highest possible is best. Splitting the difference, such as in this Sarah Richardson space really looks pretty. Plus, how pretty is this little “moment” on this stair landing.

Design Linda Merrill Photo Michael J. Lee.  How high drapery panels
Design: Linda Merrill | Photography: Michael J. Lee

And above is my Boston South End project where I split the difference between the window and crown molding. We mounted the sheer romans inside the window frame because we didn’t want to hide the newly refurbished walnut woodwork. BTW, the rod finials were huge – 6″ DIA I think!

We often hear the dictum – hand the drapery panels “high and wide”. I would say this makes sense only after the actual space is taken into account including the architecture and the volume and scale of the space. Even expensive custom treatments will be less costly than fixing the architecture itself!

xoxo Linda Would you like my Favorite Tips for a Well-Decorated Home? Click here!

4 thoughts on “Design Details: How High Should My Drapery Panels Be Hung?

  1. This is a terrific lesson, you’re so kind to teach it! My first little design job was designing window treatments, measuring, figuring yardage, detailing construction, etc. I learned more in those two years than in the other 30 + I’ve been working. I can tell when the windows haven’t been properly considered or treated, and it breaks my heart for the consumer because I know it costs just as much to do it wrong as right. Drapery/window covering done well can be the best thing that ever happens to a project.

    • Hi Rachel – that’s so true! I’ve seen so many poorly made and designed window treatments that I know cost the clients a lot of money and it’s so frustrating to see that! Thank so much for your comment and input!

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