Should curtains touch the floor? The length interior designers are now choosing might surprise you

I always had a strong opinion on how to hang curtains but the approach these interior designers take has made me re-evaluate

A long curtain touching the floor
(Image credit: Timothy Kaye. Studio credit Manna Made and RD Architecture)

When it came to choosing a length for my curtains, I always believed that these should just slightly puddle on the floor. However, while installing my living room curtains, I soon came to see the issues that arise with having curtains that "pool" on wooden floors. 

If using a textile that has even a little structure, the curtain stack can become a little distorted from touching the floor, meaning you don't get the perfect drape from your modern window treatment. So what length is ideal? 'Our golden rule is that we usually keep them 1/4" off the floor,' says interior designer Lisa Staton. 'This keeps them long and generous, but not collecting dust.' 

I set out to find more definitive answers with the help of a few more interior designers.

Can I leave a gap between the curtains and the floor?

a dining room with floor length curtains

(Image credit: House of Nomad)

When deciding how to install curtains, you want to be careful about what type of look it'll give to the overall space. Of course, 1/4" is a very small gap, and there's a fine line between curtains touching the floor and a gap that makes your floor-length curtains look like you've ordered them too short – the peddle pushers of the window treatment world. 

It's a concern that makes designers like Becky Shea opt for curtains that just touch the floor. 'I equate curtains not touching the floor to a bad haircut when your bangs are cut too short – it never looks right,' Becky says. If you're ordering (or hemming) curtains yourself, there's a small margin for error when measuring for curtains. However, if they arrive and they're a little off from what you were hoping, there's always the option to hang your curtain rod a little higher. 

If you're working with professional, interior designers Berkeley Minkhorst and Kelley Lentini, founders and principals of House of Nomad have the words to describe what you want eloquently. 'Our general rule is that curtains should 'kiss' the floor,' they explain. 'This look always feels polished, classic, and modern which complements our aesthetic.' 

Are puddling curtains out of style? 

curtains touching the floor in a living room

(Image credit: Sean Litchfield. Design: Becky Shea)

Longer, puddling curtains are more the domain of traditional, period homes looking for a flourish. 'If clients ask, we do the 'puddle' but it's not our normal choice,' says Lisa.  

If you do decide for your living room curtains to touch the floor, they really should only just touch the floor – this makes them the perfect length for blocking out light, drafts and offering that luxurious look, without being too impractical. More significant puddles aren't particularly on trend right now but matched with a contemporary textile, a slight puddle still looks fresh. 

'In the design world, we refer to the moment the drapery touches the floor as the 'break' and the material that's beyond that sitting on the floor as the 'puddle',' says Becky. 'We never recommend going beyond 1/2" for the puddle and in some cases just skimming the floor is enough.'

Does your choice of textile make a difference?

An inside-outside room with puddling curtain

(Image credit: Timothy Kaye. Studio credit Manna Made and RD Architecture)

Along with knowing how to hang curtains, when you're dealing with such fine margins of measurements, it pays to know how different fabrics react as well. 'Linen, for example will always move and shrink, growing with the seasons,' says Lisa. 

When using natural fibers like cotton, silk or wool, they're also prone to stretch once hung which may change your gap over time, especially with heavier materials. In this instance, a broken puddle on the floor will help relieve some of the weight on your curtains, too. 

Where should curtains hit the ground?

When installing the curtain, you want the fabric to just lightly touch the floor or hover 1/2 inch above. This way, they look more stylish, give the room height and make the space seem more luxurious.

Can you hang curtains too high?

Ideally, the best height to hang curtains is just below the crown (the area where the walls and ceiling meet) – while still maintaining a relationship with the window. Of course, in the case of a double or triple-height room, don't take the drapery to the crown.

Luke Arthur Wells
Freelancer writer

Luke Arthur Wells is a freelance design writer, award-winning interiors blogger and stylist, known for neutral, textural spaces with a luxury twist. He's worked with some of the UK's top design brands, counting the likes of Tom Dixon Studio as regular collaborators and his work has been featured in print and online in publications ranging from Domino Magazine to The Sunday Times. He's a hands-on type of interiors expert too, contributing practical renovation advice and DIY tutorials to a number of magazines, as well as to his own readers and followers via his blog and social media. He might currently be renovating a small Victorian house in England, but he dreams of light, spacious, neutral homes on the West Coast. 

With contributions from