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Updated July 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best nightstands

A nightstand is a piece of bedroom furniture that’s easy to forget. Many people, especially when starting out on their own to furnish a home, might think they don’t need one. What’s wrong with using the floor? It doesn’t take long to figure out the answer to that question.

A nightstand, also called a bedside table, daystand, or night table, puts things within easy reach of the bed. You don’t have to reach down or up for your book, drink, or phone if you put it on a nightstand. It keeps a bedside light at the correct height, not too high or too low. Many also have a drawer or cabinet for convenient storage. Aesthetically, most beds look better with a nightstand or two.

If you’re thinking of buying a nightstand, there are some features to consider, including materials, height, and style. A good buying guide and some recommendations can help you decide.

nightstand
In feng shui, a common piece of advice is to always have two nightstands in a bedroom. The second nightstand is said to bring balance and symbolize making space for a partner.

How to buy the best nightstand

Dimensions

Height: A key aspect of this piece of furniture is height. A nightstand shouldn’t be too high or too low to reach when you’re lying comfortably in bed. You don’t want to have to strain to reach your reading glasses or book. A good height range is 24 to 36 inches. A good rule of thumb is the top of your nightstand should be about even with the top of the mattress, but it’s better to have the nightstand a little higher than lower.

Surface area: The surface you put your lamp, books, and other items on is another important feature. Unlike height, there's no rule for how wide a nightstand should be as long as it holds what you need it to hold, from books and phone to lamp and picture frames. Take into account the amount of space you have available next to the bed for the nightstand.

Depth: A nightstand more than 24 inches deep might be in the way of getting in and out of bed comfortably.

Materials

You might not want or need an heirloom-quality nightstand. If you’re furnishing a dorm room or a temporary rental, you might not need a piece that will last for years and years. At the same time, you don’t want furniture that’s so flimsy it sags or falls apart under the weight of a lamp or books.

Common materials for nightstands include various woods like pine and mahogany, as well as engineered wood like plywood, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), and particleboard. You can also find nightstands made of metal like bronze, steel, or aluminum, and some finished with laminates. Keep in mind how much time and effort you want to put into assembling the piece, because some nightstands come flat-packed for the customer to put together, while others come fully or partially assembled.

nightstand
DID YOU KNOW?
A mahogany nightstand with marble shelves and gilt-brass hardware that was delivered in 1783 to Queen Marie Antoinette of France is on display in her apartments at the Palace of Versailles.
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Features to look for in nightstands

Style

Aside from picking a nightstand that matches or complements your bedroom’s décor, consider how its design affects the ambience of your bedroom. For example, a solid nightstand with drawers or a cabinet lends weight and presence, while one that’s just a tabletop on legs has a lighter feel. Likewise, dark colors, materials, and finishes can anchor and tone down a bedroom, while light colors, polished metal, and glass help lighten and brighten the room.

Storage

Drawers: While a simple table can serve as a nightstand, the inclusion of a drawer makes the furniture much more functional. A drawer keeps items secure and out of sight. A journal, money, jewelry, medication, glasses, and other personal items can be kept by the bedside without cluttering the surface of the nightstand. Some have multiple drawers and function as small dressers.

Shelves: A shelf enables you to use a nightstand for storage and display. Short, deep shelves can take the place of a drawer in some nightstands, especially when paired with a tray or basket. Tall shelves are ideal for displaying books or decorative objects.

Cabinet: Some nightstands have a cabinet with a door rather than drawers for storing personal items, functioning almost like a small dresser or closet.

Charging ports

Many nightstands offer built-in charging ports and cable management for personal electronics. A piece of furniture with a cutout for cords or a charging station is tidier and more convenient than a bedside power strip with multiple chargers and cables. Note that built-in charging ports may not have the power to support fast charging for some devices.

In the era before indoor flush toilets, a nightstand was used to store a chamber pot. It was called a “commode,” from the French for “convenient.”

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What accessories go with a nightstand?

Lamp

A lamp that’s within reach of the bed is a convenience in the bedroom. For visual balance, look for a lamp that’s as tall as the nightstand itself. Try to find a lamp with controls that are within easy reach from the bed, such as on the base rather than near the bulb or on the cord.

Alarm clock

While many people use their smartphone to wake up in the morning, there are still good reasons to have an alarm clock. An alarm clock has a dedicated function and doesn’t need to be tapped or told to display the time. And it can be less intrusive before or during sleep than a smartphone, because there’s no temptation to check it or play with it!

Flashlight

It’s a good idea to keep a battery-operated flashlight in your nightstand in case of emergency. Keep it in the drawer or on the shelf within easy reach. LED flashlights are much brighter than older flashlights, and they last longer and use less power.

Wireless charging pad

If you must have your devices nearby at night, a wireless charging pad is a stylish and convenient option. Many smartphones can now be charged wirelessly, and a wireless pad helps cut down on clutter and cords.

How much do nightstands cost?

Inexpensive

Inexpensive nightstands cost less than $150. In this price range, they’re mostly constructed of particleboard or MDF and come in flat-pack boxes for you to assemble. Assembly can vary in complexity and effort involved.

Mid-range

These nightstands cost $150 to $500. In this price range, you can find more pieces made of wood with metal or glass accents, interesting or functional finishes, drawers, shelves, and extras such as locks and charging docks. These usually require some assembly.

Expensive

Expensive nightstands cost $500 and more. In this category, you can find fully assembled pieces made of hardwood, brass, steel, glass, or marble, plus on-trend units from small boutique brands, and heirloom pieces built to last. Designer pieces from premium shops can cost thousands of dollars.

nightstand
DID YOU KNOW?
Flat-pack furniture was invented by Swedish designer Folke Ohlsson in 1949. It was popularized by fellow Swede Gillis Lundgren, who worked for Ikea. He revolutionized the buying and shipping of furniture.
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Tips

  • Keep the nightstand close to the bed, but not too close. A nightstand shouldn’t sit flush against the bed. Leave enough of a gap to accommodate the sheets and blankets. There should be enough clearance between the bed and the furniture so you don’t bump it with your arm or head.
  • Keep it balanced. Even if you only need one nightstand in your bedroom, you might want to balance it visually on the other side of the bed with a plant stand, small bookcase, or shelf.
  • Swap the hardware. A convenient way to update a nightstand is to change the drawer pull or cabinet knob. You can find every style and material imaginable in furniture stores and online in hardware that is simple to install for an updated look.
  • Make your nightstand “disappear.” A solid or heavy nightstand will almost disappear if it’s a similar color to the walls.
nightstand
Plywood, particleboard, and MDF are types of engineered wood. Strong plywood is made of compressed, bonded wood sheets. Inexpensive particleboard is made of small bits of wood or sawdust and is less sturdy. MDF is made of compressed wood fiber and can be as strong as hardwood.

FAQ

Q. What’s the difference between a nightstand and a bedside table?

A. There isn’t much difference between a nightstand and a bedside table, and the terms are often used interchangeably. One definition of a nightstand is a bedside table with a drawer, shelf, or doors as opposed to a bedside table that is just a tabletop with legs.

Q. Can I use a side table as a nightstand?

A. Yes. Side tables (and end tables) are usually about the same height as nightstands, around 25 inches, so they should fit well next to a bed. However, some side tables are much narrower than nightstands, to fit in smaller spaces next to chairs and sofas, and they may not have any storage or drawers.

Q. Do nightstands have to match?

A. No. Some people like the look of a matched set of bedroom furniture, but you might prefer contrasting shapes, finishes, or materials, as well as sizes and features. If you want to use two different nightstands but still want them to harmonize or balance, choose two that are about the same height or style or color.

 

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