Can Curtains Make A Room Look Smaller

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Curtains are a classic decorating element that can add style, privacy, and light control to any room. However, some worry that curtains may make a room feel smaller or boxed in. The good news is that with the right design choices, curtains don’t have to make a room feel smaller at all. In fact, curtains can be used strategically to make a room feel more spacious.

Tips on how curtains can affect the feel of a room


  1. Hang curtains high and wide to draw the eyes up and create an illusion of height. Extend curtain rods well beyond the window frame to make windows appear larger.
  2. Choose lightweight, sheer fabrics in light colors to maintain an airy, open look. Dark heavy fabrics tend to feel enclosed.
  3. Leave negative space around windows instead of covering them completely with curtains. Tie back drapes, use separate panels, or add valances.
  4. Go for floor-length curtains to elongate walls, but avoid uneven mid-wall lengths that can chop up space.
  5. Add vertical details like stripes or narrow prints to make windows appear taller. Avoid wide horizontal patterns.
  6. Skip curtains on small windows or in rooms where you want to maximize views and brightness. Add them selectively just where privacy or light filtering is needed.

Hang Rods High and Wide

One of the easiest ways to keep curtains from making a room feel small is to hang the curtain rods high and wide. Mount the curtain rod 6 inches or more above the window frame if ceiling height allows. Hanging curtains closer to the ceiling draws the eye up and creates the illusion of a taller space.

Additionally, make sure curtain rods extend well beyond the window frame on both sides. Curtains will stack more loosely and transparently with extra space, preventing a heavy blocked-off look. Extending the rod also tricks the eye into perceiving a larger window. Shoot for rods that are 2 to 3 times the width of the window.

Choose Sheer or Lightweight Fabrics

Heavy, opaque fabrics tend to look more enclosing than lightweight sheer or breezy fabrics. To keep things airy, look for curtains made from lightweight materials like voile, linen, muslin, or very lightly woven cottons and polyesters. Stay away from thick, insulating fabrics like blackout curtains during the daytime.

Sheers are ideal for maximizing light and maintaining an open feel. For privacy, use opaque linings or inserts that can be drawn when needed. Floor-length sheers that puddle slightly also create an elegant, expansive look. Hang sheers as close to the ceiling as possible to emphasize height.

Light Colors Are Less Imposing

Along with fabric density, color has an impact on how heavy curtains appear. Dark hues tend to look more solid and dominating. To keep things lightweight, stick with light neutrals like white, ivory, tan, or pale gray. These colors recede visually, making windows look see-through even if the fabric isn’t sheer.

Bolder colors like navy can work too, as long as the fabric itself is breezy and you use plenty of natural light. Just stick to lighter versions of deep colors. For patterned curtains, make sure the background is light.

Leave Negative Space Around Windows

Even when using opaque curtains, make sure windows don’t look entirely blocked off. Leave negative space around windows to maintain an open look. For example, hang cafe curtains just below the window frame instead of right over it. Or, use two separate curtain panels on one rod, hanging them off to the sides of the window instead of covering it.

You can also create negative space by tying back drapes. Opt for tie-tops or holdbacks over pleated drapes that cover the entire window. Valances are great for framing the top of windows while leaving the rest visually open.

Use the Right Lengths

In most cases, floor-length curtains make rooms feel taller rather than more enclosed. The vertical lines draw eyes up, which counters the squatty look short curtains can create. For privacy, top floor-length curtains with a classic valance.

Avoid limbs of uneven lengths that stop mid-wall. These tend to chop up the space visually. Very short lengths like cafe curtains can work above kitchen sinks or on small bathroom windows. Just don’t use them on primary living space windows.

The exception is trouser or puddle-length panels that extend to the floor. These can feel heavy. opt for floor length instead in most rooms.

Consider Windows Without Curtains

Not every window needs curtains, especially if the space already feels cramped. Let in maximum light by skipping curtains on smaller windows. Or, consider alternative window treatments like roman shades, rollers shades, or window film. These block less light than drapes and curtains.

If you want to soften windows without curtains, consider topping them with a pretty cornice, lambrequin, or architectural trim detail. You can create the illusion of curtains using iron scrollwork, wood beams, or decorative molding frames. Get creative without the visual weight.

Use Vertical Lines and Small Patterns

Certain design elements can make windows feel taller and more vertical. long, continuous vertical stripes are classic for drawing the eyes up and down rather than across.

Smaller prints and grids also make windows look taller compared to large distracting patterns. Floral trails or narrow plaids work better than wide horizontal stripes or distracting swirls.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

If your room still feels small even with vertical curtain tricks, consider adding mirrors. strategically placed mirrors instantly double visual space. You don’t need massive mirrors to get the effect – even small decorative pieces across from windows can make a difference.

Vertical mirror panels are an easy way to play up height and erase visualization of wall boundaries. Mirror the size and shape of your actual windows for the best illusion. Place mirror strips perpendicular to windows rather than directly across to prevent seeing your reflection pull back the curtains each day.

Use Curtains Strategically, Not Everywhere

Before adding curtains everywhere, consider where they make the most sense. Prioritize adding curtains in:

  • Living spaces where you want privacy from the street or neighbors. Bedrooms and living rooms are most likely to need curtains.
  • Rooms with intense direct sunlight that needs diffusing. East, west or south-facing windows may require light-filtering materials for parts of the day.
  • Windows lacking other architectural detail that could benefit from softening. Blank walls and simple double-hung windows can feel cold.
  • Large picture windows. Sheers help shrink massive windows to more proportional scales.

Consider skipping curtains in:

  • Smaller accent windows, especially those near the ceiling or with lower sills.
  • Bathrooms and kitchen windows where you value brightness and visibility more than privacy.
  • Windows with other decorative treatments like shutters, heavy trimwork, stained glass, or other architectural details that already create visual interest.
  • Rooms painted very dark colors, which already absorb light. Optimize brightness with uncovered windows.
  • Windows provides desirable unobstructed views. Preserve the view without disrupting it.

Use Curtains to Define Spaces

Rather than adding uniform curtain treatments throughout, use specific styles to define different spaces and zones. For example:

  • Delicate sheers in bedrooms for an elegant, peaceful vibe.
  • Opaque blackout curtains in home theaters and media rooms for maximum movie immersion.
  • Breezy linen half curtains in kitchen nooks for casual dining ambiance.
  • Roman shades in offices for privacy with optimized daylighting.

This type of planning creates variation rather than encasing every window identically. Match the curtain style to the room’s functions and character.

Layer Different Curtains

To create more airy layers, mix different curtain types instead of choosing just one. For instance, hang breezy sheers behind opaque curtains. Roll down the opaque layer when you want blackout capabilities. Or pair stationary panels with flowing drapes over top.

Creating layers allows you to enjoy the aesthetic benefits of multiple styles. Just make sure longer under layers don’t peek out beneath shorter top layers in a disjointed manner. Keep the layering logical, with the most transparent curtains on top to avoid a heavy look.

Adjust and Evolve Your Curtains

If your curtains start to feel too imposing over time, make adjustments. For example, remove cumbersome linings to lighten opaque panels. Replace heavy fabrics with breezy alternatives. Shorten lengths that extended too far down. Or remove the pleats and reshape them flat.

Evolving your curtains prevents that closed-in feeling from becoming permanent. Reimagine and refresh treatments seasonally or as your room functions change. Don’t hesitate to rehang rods wider or higher if your layout changes. Making small upgrades over time keeps the versatile benefits of curtains without the drawbacks.

With smart design choices, almost any style of curtain can make a room feel more open instead of more confined. Follow these tips when selecting and hanging curtains to maintain a spacious, airy interior. Your rooms will feel larger, not smaller when you use curtains to optimize natural light, draw eyes up, and define spaces artfully.

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