Bedside Tables

Bedside tables or nightstand?

What is the difference between a nightstand and bedside table?

After picking out a new bed, the next question customers almost always ask is what to put next to it. For most people, having a convenient place to put bedside items such as a clock, phone or bedside lamps is an essential piece of bedroom furniture.

But from there it can get a bit more complicated. What is the difference between nightstands and bedside tables? Is a drawer important? How tall should nightstands be compared to the bed? How about “floating” nightstands that are attached to the wall? And what can you use instead of a nightstand?

This guide will cover the basics of nightstands and bedside tables including definitions, styles, dimensions and even alternatives.

Nightstand vs bedside tables

What is the difference between nightstands and bedside tables? Or could it be a bedside cabinet? Regardless of what you call it at your house, and no matter if you have a modern or traditional style bedroom, almost everyone can agree that a solid surface next to your bed is an important part of a complete bedroom furniture arrangement.

Why is it called a nightstand?

Before indoor plumbing became common, nightstands were small cabinets used to store a chamber pot. Sometimes also called a commode, the original nightstands would have cabinet doors to hide the chamber pot and in some cases a small drawer for essential items. In those days a bedside table was simply a table next to the bed.

Today the terms nightstand and bedside table are used interchangeably. Some people maintain that a nightstand is a larger cabinet with drawers, whereas bedside tables are smaller. But after talking with customers about this issue for more than 10 years, here at Solid Custom Heirlooms we decided that the terms can refer to the same thing. Call it a nightstand, night table, bedside table, daystand or bedside cabinet – you name it, we will build it for you!

two maple nightstands

Bedside tables with drawer

Adding a drawer to a bedside table helps to organize and add style to a room. A two drawer nightstand provides extra space to de-clutter the bedside, sort out small items and keep your home organized.

white oak mid century modern nightstand
mission style nightstand
nightstand with hidden compartment
nightstand with secret storage compartment

Bedside table with a hidden compartment

Do you have items that you would like to keep next to your bed that you would also like to keep secure, and or that you’d rather not have other people know about? Bedside tables with a hidden drawer are perfect places to add a secret compartment.

Should my nightstand be taller or shorter than my bed?

Most people prefer their nightstand or bedside table to be within 2 to 4 inches of the height of the their mattress, and for there to be a 2 to 6 inch space between the side of the mattress and the nightstand.

If a nightstand or bedside table is significantly lower than the mattress it can be difficult for the sleeper to reach items placed on the table surface while laying in bed. A higher table surface is less problematic as the user can easily reach up from the laying down position.

Platform bed nightstands should be at the same height as the mattress, especially if it is a low bed. Traditional nightstands will be too high for a low platform bed.

What can I use instead of a nightstand?

There is no rule that says a bedroom must have a nightstand. The common items people usually have near their bed, such as bedside lamps and alarm clocks, do not necessarily need to stay on a table surface. For example a floor or lamp and wall clock can free up space next to a bed.

Still, most people have at least a few items that they would like to keep handy at bedtime. Here are some alternatives to traditional nightstands or beside tables:

Beds with built in nightstands

Built in side tables are a perfect solution for a person that wants an all-in-one nightstand solution. These built in nightstands can be as simple as a basic tables, or can be more elaborate with one or more drawers.

storage bed with headboard
6 drawer storage bed with built-in nightstands
captains bed

Storage headboards

A storage headboard adds shelving or cabinet space to the headboard above the mattress instead of at the side of the bed. A storage headboard is a great place for books or other large items, but can also work well for smaller items like a clock or phone if there is not room for a nightstand or bedside table next to the bed.

This bed also features extra storage drawers under the mattress!


Beds with platform extensions

Platform Beds have the option of an extension that enlarges the bed platform at the sides and end of the bed, creating an extra surface that can hold small bedtime essentials. A typical extension is 2 to 5 inches past the footprint of the mattress.

The bed shown in the photo is a Walnut platform-base canopy bed with 6 inch wide platform extensions. This means that when a standard mattress is placed on this bed frame, there will be 6 inches of platform space around the mattress.

low canopy bed with platform extensions

Floating bedside tables

“Floating” tables are attached to the wall rather than free-standing on the floor near the bed. Wall-attached tables free up space underneath, and make cleaning under the bed easy. Floating tables offer an open, minimalist look that works very well with low platform beds.

modern twin storage bed

Storage Beds

Storage beds have drawers that slide out from the sides or ends of the bed. They make the most of typically unused space under the bed and are a great place to store bedding, shoes, clothing or just about anything else that takes up space in the bedroom.