Should Curtains Cover a Window Frame

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Windows are an essential part of any home, allowing natural light to pour in and offering views of the outdoors. The frames around windows can range from basic to highly decorative depending on the style of your home.

For many homeowners, figuring out the best way to dress their windows with curtains can be a decorating dilemma. Should you cover up beautiful window frames with curtains? Or is it better to let the frames stand out?

When choosing curtains, there are a few factors to consider including privacy, light control, and the overall look you want to achieve. With some planning, you can find the right balance of fabrics and window frames to complement your home’s architecture and interior design.

Here are some tips on determining if curtains should cover window frames and how to style windows for an attractive look.

  • The standard distance from the window frame to the curtain rod end is 4–10 inches.
  • Extending the rod wider than the window makes it appear larger.
  • Full-length curtains should kiss the floor or puddle slightly.
  • Inside mounts place the rod within a window frame.
  • Outside mounts allow more control over frame coverage.
  • Sheers filter light while leaving frames visible.

What is the Purpose of Your Curtains?


Before deciding if your curtains should cover the window frames, think about the purpose you want them to serve. Curtains can provide:

  • Privacy from neighbors or passersby
  • Light and noise control
  • Insulation to retain heat or block out sunlight
  • Purely decorative focal point
  • Frame or soften the windows

If privacy is a top concern, you’ll likely want curtains that fully cover the window frames. Fabric overlapping the frames prevents gaps where people can peek inside. Likewise, if you need to darken a room, opaque curtains that extend past the frames will be most effective.

For decoration only, you may opt for lighter or non-floor-length curtains that leave attractive window frames partially or fully exposed. Consider the room’s existing style and your personal tastes when deciding if covered frames suit the space.

Measure Window and Room Dimensions

The size and placement of your windows will factor into how you dress them. Take precise measurements of each window including:

  • Width and height
  • Distance from floor to sill
  • Distance from ceiling to the top of the frame
  • Depth of window frame
  • Distance between windows/size of wall space

Use these measurements to select rods and curtains. Hang rods at least 2 inches above the frame, though 4-6 inches is recommended for a stylish look. Extend rods 3-8 inches past the window edges.

For floor-length curtains, ensure enough space below the sills for the fabric to puddle or gently graze the floor. In rooms with low ceilings, mounting curtains too high can make spaces feel cramped. Take ceiling height into account for ideal positioning.

Choose Curtain Length and Fabric

Curtain length impacts the overall look and functionality. Full-length curtains that puddle slightly or just kiss the floor have a formal, elegant vibe. Cafe curtains with a hem hitting the sill or apron maintain views and let in light.

The fabric also matters. Light sheers leave frames visible while also filtering light. Blackout fabrics give maximum darkness and privacy but fully conceal decorative trim. Linen and silk look upscale, but delicate and require lining. Easy-care polyester suits durability needs with an array of colors and patterns to match any decor.

Inside or Outside Mount

One decision that significantly impacts the window frame exposure is whether you do an inside mount or an outside mount.

Inside mounts place the curtain rod directly within the window frame for a streamlined, built-in look. The fabric hangs within the frame itself, fully exposing and highlighting the trim. Inside mounts work well on arched windows or above kitchen sinks. Since the rod has limited space, make sure the frame depth accommodates it.

Outside mounts place the rod on the wall above the window frame. This provides versatility in positioning curtains away from the frame. You can hang fabric right above the frame to expose the trim or further away to make windows appear larger. Outside mounts give you control over the overlap.

Treat Transom or Separate Windows Individually?

For windows with transoms or separate upper sections, you can either treat them as one large window or dress them separately.

Covering the entire area maintains privacy and insulation. Place the rod above the transom and use enough length to reach the main window. This approach minimizes the architectural detail but ensures functionality.

Hanging rods just above the lower window and leaving the transom bare keeps the design visible. It also allows more light in. Make sure the height leaves enough space for the curtains to clear any deep sills or aprons on the lower window.

Add Stylish Embellishments

Rods, finials, tiebacks, and other hardware let you incorporate your personal taste. Choose finishes and shapes that match your existing decor. Opt for simple rods and minimal flourishes for a clean contemporary look. Go for more ornamentation on rods and finials for traditional rooms.

Tiebacks add drama, pulling curtains to the side. Clip-on rings or tabs also keep fabrics out of the way to reveal more of the frames. For a light touch, use sheer panels behind the main curtains. This maintains visibility while softening the windows.

Decorative Curtain Solutions for Common Obstacles

In some situations, fully covering window frames causes issues. But creative solutions can still provide enough privacy or light control. Here are fixes for common challenges:

Radiator or other furniture blocking the lower portion of the window: Hang shorter curtains just above the obstruction. Add a second rod above for a layered look.

Small children or pets: Use safer cordless curtains. Mount tension rods inside frames out of reach.

Rented apartment: Adhesive no-screw brackets temporarily attach rods without damaging walls.

Door/window combos: Cover just the window portion with side panels, a roman shade, or alternate treatment than the door.

Preserve Beautiful Historic Windows

For spectacular antique leaded glass, art glass, or other ornate historic windows, it’s best to leave them uncovered. Consider only light, see-through curtains that won’t detract from the craftsmanship. Avoid drilling into fragile frames to mount hardware. If light control is needed, interior or exterior shutters can retain views of the windows.

Home Style Ideas for Window Frame Treatments

The options for dressing your windows are nearly endless. Here are some window treatment ideas suited to popular interior design aesthetics:

Contemporary: Metal or wood frames look great paired with bold solid curtains. Add texture with linen-look fabrics at full length.

Rustic farmhouse style: Natural woven wood blinds maintain the cozy casual vibe. White curtains offset colorful trim and sills.

Coastal: Hang breezy linen curtains in calm hues. Show off light wood beadboard frames.

Eclectic: Mix textures and patterns. Try bold stripes or geometrics over neutral frames.

Minimalist: Clean-lined rods and ghost sheer curtains keep the focus on unadorned window frames.

Go Bold or Neutral with Colors

Color choice further enables you to make your windows a focal point or downplay the frames. Bold or vivid curtain colors and patterns command attention, while neutral palettes recede to let architectural details shine.

Use drapes in a color matching or complementing the walls for a cohesive effect. Contrast the frames and curtains in different hues. For a visually expanded look, select lighter colors. Darker shades tend to feel more intimate and cozy.

The scale of patterns also impacts busyness. Small prints help frames stand out behind curtains. Large bold patterns compete for prominence.

Budget Considerations

Getting a custom window treatment with made-to-measure curtains costs more, but provides an exact fit. Affordable ready-made panels often come in standard sizes that leave gaps. For budget DIY options:

  • Buy ready-made panels and take to a tailor for hemming to a custom length.
  • Use decorative tension rods inside frames for quick install without hardware.
  • Mount inexpensive rod pockets over frames and insert a dowel.
  • Make tab top curtains with hooks to attach onto existing rods.
  • Weighing Your Options for Window Dressing

Windows are both functional necessities and design elements in your home. As you choose window treatments, factor in privacy, decor goals, room architecture, and overall aesthetic. Experiment to find the right balance and creative solutions to suit your needs. With proper measurements and innovative styling, you can craft a window treatment design that works in harmony with your window frames to enhance your rooms.

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