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Curtains can trick the eye by making the ceiling appear taller than it is.

CreativaStudio/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

When thoughtfully chosen and installed, curtains perform three main functions: They block light (and nosy neighbours), they add an element of decoration, and they enhance a room’s architecture. Something tells me I’m preaching to the choir on the first two, so let’s focus on the third.

The goal is to trick the eye by making the windows and ceiling appear as tall as possible. To accomplish that lofty look, mount your curtain rod on the wall halfway between the top of the window frame and the ceiling line. If your curtains are being custom-made, you could mount the rod even higher and adjust the hem length accordingly. Or, if they’re store-bought panels, experiment to determine the right height relative to the length of the curtains. (The exception to all of this is a room with vaulted ceilings. In that case, mount the rod between six and 10 inches above the frame.)

Most important to a successful and stylish installation is nailing the hem-to-floor ratio. Imagine bangs on a great haircut; they can’t be too short or too long. Most curtains look best when barely grazing the floor, allowing a little bit of light to spill out from underneath, or touching the floor with a subtle break or fold to the hem.

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You may have heard the term “puddling,” that’s when the fabric spills down onto the floor in abundance. Though it’s an old-school decorator technique, puddling can still be super chic and give the room a European ambiance. To my eye, puddling is worth the “wow” only when the room is more formal or the fabric really special. Think thick, nubbly linen, lined silk drapes or rich velvet.

Back to the rod itself, make sure it’s long enough to extend out 10 inches from the sides of the frame. Single, non-telescoping rods are the gold standard; that way, you won’t have to deal with the annoyance of your curtain rings snagging on a seam or joint. And on the topic of width, make sure your curtains are wide enough to look lush and full even when closed – no flat, flimsy curtains, please. It’s a simple equation: The combined width of both panels should be double the width of the windows.

Need some advice about interior design and decor? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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