Should curtains touch the floor? Here's why I've completely changed my mind

I always blindly followed advice on how long curtains should be, but the approach these interior designers take has made me re-evaluate

a modern living room with stylish curtains
(Image credit: Amanda and Scott Sanford. Design: Jenni Kayne)

I don't always follow every interior design rule without a thought, but when it came to choosing a length for my curtains, I went with what I'd always heard. In my case, this was that curtains should just slightly puddle on the floor – and it made perfect sense to me. 

I'm a firm believer that curtains should be hung as high as possible, and always reach the floor, even if your window doesn't. The bigger the curtains, the more luxurious your space feels, so surely that applies to every last inch of fabric, meaning curtains should certainly touch the floor. 

However, when it came to my own living room curtains (which I hemmed to size myself), I soon came to see the issues that came with having curtains that just pooled on the floor. If using a textile that has even a little structure, so basically anything but linen, the curtain stack can become a little distorted from touching the floor – not ideal if you want picture-perfect curtains. Plus, between running the vacuum cleaner around, the curtains just collect any dust from my hardwood floors when pulling them closed. 

So, should curtains really touch the floors? I set out to find a definitive answer with the help of a few interior designers. Here's what they told me. 

luke arthur wells
Luke Arthur Wells

Luke is a design writer and blogger, named as one of The Times' best interiors Instagram account to follow. He talked to interior designers and experts to get a definitive answer of whether curtains should touch the floor in a contemporary home. 

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

It turns out, this may actually be the best option for modern window treatments. 'Our golden rule is that we usually keep them 1/4" off the floor,' interior designer Lisa Staton explains. 'This keeps them long and generous, but not collecting dust.' 

Of course, 1/4" is a very small gap, and there's clearly 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. 

a dining room with floor length curtains

(Image credit: House of Nomad)

If you're ordering (or hemming) curtains yourself, there's clearly 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 hang your curtain rod a little higher

If you're working with a professional, interior designers Berkeley Minkhorst and Kelley Lentini, founders and principals of House of Nomad (opens in new tab) 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.' 

Wovn Home (opens in new tab)
Where to shop

Wovn Home (opens in new tab) 

Wovn Home is one of our favorite recent discoveries for buying curtains, drapes, blinds and other window treatments. Not only can you order custom curtains in just a few weeks, but they have a curated selection of fabrics that feel modern and minimalist, ideal for any contemporary home without having to search through pages and pages of options. 

Are puddling curtains out of style? 

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

If you do decide for your 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",' designer Becky Shea explains. We never recommend going beyond 1/2" for the puddle and in some cases just skimming the floor is enough.'

curtains touching the floor

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

Does your choice of textile make a difference?

When you're dealing with such fine margins of measurements, it pays to know how different fabrics react. 'Linen, for example, will always move and shrink, growing with the seasons,' Lisa Staton advises. 

When using natural fibres 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 break puddle on the floor will help relieve some of the weight on your curtains, too.