How to Choose the Ideal Nightstand / Bedside Table

Nightstands (or bedside tables) are the perfect example of pieces of furniture that need to excel in both the form and function stakes. There is no point having a stunning nightstand if you can’t reach your bedside lamp. Equally you don’t want the careful design of your bedroom decor to be ruined by a jarringly out-of-place, purely practical piece. Once you’ve got your bed, bedlinen and clothes storage sorted you need to tackle the common dilemma of what goes either side of the bed. You need a nightstand that will fit with your interior style whilst also providing an ample surface area and storage for your needs.

Here are some pointers to help you choose the perfect bedside tables for your home:

Bedside Tables – Height

The ideal height for a nightstand or bedside table is roughly even with the top of the mattress, i.e.; the sleeping surface (see below). Give or take a few inches, you want the top of the table to be level with the mattress, making it easy for you to reach and creating a clean sightline across the bed. If you can’t exactly match the height of your mattress, go for something slightly higher rather than lower as this looks better.

Bedside Tables - Height

Bedside Tables – Lighting

You want to be able to reach your bedside lighting easily, so if you have the space a table lamp is perfect. Choose one with a switch on the cord so you don’t have to lean right over to the bulb.  You want the bottom of the lamp to be at roughly the same height as your chin if you are sitting up in bed, in order to give you the best light. The ideal size of lamp for a bedside table is around 1/3 of the table size. Keep lamps in proportion with your nightstands, and make sure you have room for your other bits and pieces. If you are tight for space, or prefer a minimal look, wall-mounted lighting sconces are brilliant. These leave the nightstand free for a few small items, and can add drama and focus to a bedroom.

Bedside Tables – Storage

Nightstands with drawers are great for hiding away things like glasses, medicines and other bedroom clutter. You need to consider whether you want something with a door, or an open shelf, or just a simple table top. A combination of small drawer on top with an open shelving area underneath, like this one below (image via lobsterandswan.com), works really well.

Bedside Tables - Storage

Bedside Tables – Style

Think about whether you want two matching nightstands, or contrasting ones. The benefit of a matching pair is that it makes a bedroom look really pulled together and intentional. But having different bedside tables can look great too, giving a room a less formal, more eclectic vibe. If you go for different styles make sure there is one continuous element (colour, material or size). This will ensure they work together and don’t look too random or jarring. Be mindful also of the surface – if you like to have a glass or jug of water on your nightstand, wood might not be the best choice due to possible staining. In terms of colour you can be pretty free here: go for a pop of colour or keep things muted, or go for a complete contrast as below with a white bed and black nightstand (image and styling by Tiffany of curateanddisplay.co.uk).

Bedside Tables - Contrast

Bedside Tables – Scale

Keep your bedroom furniture in proportion. A large bed requires larger nightstands, and vice versa. If you have a small room and a large bed consider not using bedside tables at all. That is better than squeezing too-small ones in and making the room feel cramped. If you have a bed with a headboard, three-drawer chests of drawers work beautifully as the headboard allows for a higher surface next to the bed.

Here are two nightstands that we love: one glossy and sleekly contemporary, the other a simple, mid-century beauty. But if you don’t have the budget for a nightstand or want something different, you could use vintage apple crates, shelves, trunks, wall-mounted spice racks, chopping boards used as floating shelves and even tree trunk cut-offs. Be creative and have fun, but remember you need something that can withstand some fumbling for the light switch in the dark and that will enhance the feel of your bedroom. As shown below, sometimes less is more. Wouldn’t this look amazing with our pure linen bedlinen set in rhomb plum kitten? For more tips on decorating with linen go here and here.

A photo by Atilla Taskiran - Bedside Tables

3 comments

Aarsun 2020-04-06
Reply

Nice and informative post… I like your point Bedside Tables – Height.

Jocelyn McDonald 2018-05-09
Reply

I am helping my sister pick out furniture for her new home, and I am not sure what nightstand would be best for the bedroom. It was very helpful that you mention a bedside table should be the same height at the bed, as this makes it easier to reach. I would’ve never thought of that, and will take this advice into consideration when choosing a nightstand.

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