17 Designer Tips for Styling a Nightstand

Consider how to get your bedside table just right. After all, it’s often the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you see at night.

Whether you take a minimalist approach to bedside table decor or prefer to top it with stacks of books and objets, your nightstand speaks to your core values and has a powerful potential to set the tone of your day. Scroll through these seventeen diverse iterations and hear from the designers who styled them to help you create the nightstand of your dreams.

For the Brooklyn Heights home above, designer Nick Olsen incorporated two tables of varying heights next to the bed. A vintage Georgian style console table with column lamps sets a stately backdrop for a delicate glass-top table, which offers additional room for books. “I find a contrasting finish to the bed or headboard frame is most desirable . . . mirror next to fabric, polished wood next to forged metal and so on.”

This decisively monochrome bedroom feels decidedly luxurious with the addition of elements like a custom-upholstered headboard set against a grasscloth wall, a lacquered and mirrored Jansen-style nightstand, antique burnished brass wall sconces and a sunburst mirror.

Summer Thornton, who designed the Chicago space, has this to say about her own nightstand: “I’ve got a huge vintage lamp, and when I’m lucky, I’ll have fresh flowers in a bud vase.”

Albert Hadley–trained designer Harry Heissmann says this about creating a bedside haven for his clients: “A reading lamp is essential and needs to be on a dedicated outlet. I like to keep clients’ nightstands edited, with a carafe for water and an alarm clock, and sometimes a landline phone for emergencies.”

In this Soho apartment, a pair of Cloud nightstands by Jacques Jarrige from the Valerie Goodman Gallery pop against the maximalist mix of patterned wallpaper, animal print carpeting and architectural panels from Victoria & Son.

“The idea was to create something very asymmetrical with box shelves on one side for books,” the Parisian design duo Bismut & Bismut says about this bedside design. Wall niches and floating rectangular shelving, set within a black lacquered border, are great for hiding eyesores like electronic cords as well as displaying art. A mix of high and low accessories includes a chair from a Brussels flea market, an Irving Penn print and a Bram van Velde painting.

Mixing and matching nightstands is not off-limits to Annie Kelly of Annie Kelly Art + Design. However, as she says, “nightstands should be at the same height at either side of the bed, even if they are not in the same style.”

Kelly used the same striped fabric for the lampshades and the curtains, and then wrapping the room in a Colefax & Fowler wallpaper, giving this antiqued-filled Litchfield, Connecticut, country cottage bedroom a cozy, vintage feel.

London-based Ben Pentreath finds balance in combining contrasting colors and patterns. Case in point: The Spring lamp by Marianna Kennedy with a green base, for which he made a custom blue shade, pops against the Soane Seaweed Lace wallpaper.

The floating nightstand in this Greenwich Village penthouse was custom designed and fabricated by Studio Hus to maximize space and give a clean, modern look. The swing arm sconce by Serge Mouille underlines the sense of minimalism.

“To me, nightstands are like little alters,” says Studio Hus founder Tatum Kendrick. “They have quite a serious impact, as it’s one of the last things you see before going to sleep and one of the first things you see when waking up. You can also learn quite a bit about someone by what they have on their nightstand.”

According to the design team at Waldo Studio, “Nightstands are peculiar as they are really personal to a client. On a practical note, they should always include closed and open storage and hide away the myriad of sockets for the endless devices needed by the beds. On a stylistic note, they need to address the symmetry of a bed setup and work proportionately with the lamps on them or above them.”

In a West London townhouse, the designers upholstered an entire wall behind the bed in Holland & Sherry fabric, covered the floor in a custom carpet by Tom Bartlett at Waldo Works, and installed two bespoke cubic storage units on either side of the bed.

Joan Dineen of Dineen Architecture + Design says, “A good nightstand has at least one drawer, but it should look like a beautiful piece of furniture in its own right,” which is exactly what this antiqued mirror nightstand from John Salibello does.

To top it off, an elegant mirrored sconce from Bernd Goeckler is set in the silken headboard high above the nightstand to offer just the right amount of light for bedtime reading.

Hollywood Home by Consort. Photo by Laure Joliet

A pair of custom, dark-stained nightstands anchor an all-white room, providing contrast in the otherwise all-white space. The designers at Consort, who created this bohemian bedroom, have strong opinions about nightstands: “Go for form and function. In styled shoots, you’ll often see a clean, minimal nightstand styled sparsely with a bud vase, a book, and a pair of glasses. It looks chic, but who actually lives like that? Choose a nightstand that not only looks pretty in photos but that has the storage and the shelves you need to hold and hide the very real — not always pretty — objects needed for daily living.”

In this Lower Manhattan loft, a streamlined nightstand by Florence Knoll anchors an eclectic array of objects, including a Vallauris bowl, an antique pewter tureen, a vintage scissor arm sconce, wall art from various periods and a vintage crewel bedspread.

All of this underlines what New York designer Alexandra Lowe believes about the purpose of nightstands: “They should have things on them that are restful and bring you joy.” That is, with the exception of anything “tipsy, clumsy or complicated.”

Francis Sultana’s general rule for bedside tables is to “keep it practical — with drawers — but also calming.” For a contemporary London apartment, he commissioned designer Mattia Bonetti to create a nightstand with plenty of storage and then topped it with the owners’ own personal effects, which are brilliant at picking up the elegant brass pulls. In his own bedroom, he finds calm in a pot of Dr. Jackson’s 05 Botanical Essence.

Manhattan House by Drake/Anderson. Photo by Lucas Allen

Drake/Anderson, the duo behind this rather dainty Manhattan bedroom has practical advice for styling nightstands: “Always put some pretty things on top, but leave room for a glass or bottle of water, a book or your iPad.”

However, color is a key component for the designers as well. “The spring-like color story of leaf green and orchid was chosen for its feminine qualities. The nightstand from Gustavo Olivieri is topped with a grouping of vintage Venetian glass lamp with a custom smocked lampshade, a white ceramic 1950s foo dog and French white glass vase holding a bunch of anemones — which reinforce the color scheme — placed on a deep orchid lacquered tray.”

Country club home in Bloomington, Illinois, by Summer Thornton. Photo by Werner Straube and Josh Thornton

“My nightstand is loaded with art and design books as well as the latest shelter magazines. I read for a few minutes before bed every night,” says Summer Thornton. No doubt, she would feel at ease in this modern home she designed for a family in Illinois.

Eye-catching are the contemporary art above the bed and the gazelle trophy, but on top of and underneath the bedside table by Restoration, are Thornton’s telltale stacks of books.

“Nightstands need enough room for a cup of tea, a book, your phone and a good reading lamp,” says Angie Hranowsky. “If you go with a wall mounted reading lamp, this can free up more room, but you can also have a wall light and a table lamp for dual-task lighting.”

The lamp in this South Carolina riverside home is a 1960s matte-glazed ceramic from Hudson Supermarket, and it is perfectly proportioned to sit atop the Scandinavian rosewood nightstand and next to the brass canopy bed from Modern Epic Antiques.

On the topic of nightstands, Kishani Perera says, “Make it interesting and practical. It’s the first thing you see in the morning, and the last thing you see before you fall asleep, so should be styled well and something you enjoy.”

Repurposed items, such as this dramatic hanging lamp and a Victorian stool, are exactly the type of practical-yet-visually-interesting touches that make this bohemian bedside space so enticing.

Nightstands can balance a room. As designers from The Wiseman Group note, “The custom-made floating nightstands complement the architectural elements and also bring balance to other furnishings within the space,” which includes bespoke wall sconces.

But just because they are highly functional doesn’t mean they can’t be personalized. “The oranges and lemons are taken from citrus trees on the property. The flowers complement the desert landscape.”

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