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What can I put on a nightstand so it looks good and is fully functional?

Bedroom nightstand with lamp and plant

Let’s walk through all of the elements of the perfect nightstand: functional, beautiful, and simple. We’ll provide tips and tricks on how to arrange the table, as well as a buying guide for all the key elements. 

The nightstand ranges from a small standing table, housing just a lamp, to a set of drawers, with counter space for plenty of things. You want a nightstand that is functional, yet aesthetically pleasing and not cluttered.  Tabletops of any kind can get cluttered very easily,  but if you have a system where everything has its proper place, it’s a lot easier to keep things in order. Your bedtime routine and your sleep can be really influenced by the space around your bed. You want both your bed and all the surrounding items to create a sense of calm and facilitate your rest. Having the right elements, all coming together, to create a restful environment is key. This includes lighting, colours, organization, books, alarms, and any of your other personal touches.

The height of the nightstand table is also a major factor in your comfort. Now, it entirely depends on the height of your bed. I have had far too many experiences of knocking water glasses off the bedside table onto my books, or the floor, just because I didn’t have the right height for my table. It does depend on what you will be using the table for, but generally I think people use the bedside table for a glass of water, if not a glass of wine or coffee, which are much more dangerous to spill. The ultimate formula for having a safe and clean bedside table is keeping it a few inches above your bed level, as well as a few inches away from the bed. This will set you up to be able to reach things comfortably, but not easily knock things over in your sleep, or in awake for that matter.

The 7 Elements of Design for A Peaceful Bedside Table

1.Keep Clutter Below


The goal for your nightstand’s top is to keep essentials handy. But your tabletop may quickly get out of hand if you need to wrangle large items like an alarm clock and tissue box with smaller items like a book and reading glasses all crammed together on a small surface. Items tend to roll off the top of your table or get knocked over by accident. Here are a few ways to prevent clutter, rollovers, and spills that inevitably happen in the middle of the night.

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It’s as fun as it sounds. Keep it very simple on the top with two items max. Like in the bedrooms above, you can style a lamp and a bud vase or a vase and a water glass but really the possibilities are pretty endless. Just make it functional for you (and pared back). Then on the bottom, books are your friend. They look clean but add texture…plus, you know…reading. Overall, always keep your color palette (three to four colors max) and mix up the textures, too. If you’re just buying a bedside table, it’s great to go with one that has storage options below, so you can keep some items from cluttering the tabletop surface. If you already have your table, try re-arranging, and placing more items that are on top, underneath or in a drawer. This will really open up the space, make it feel clean, and keep your headspace and physical space uncluttered for a peaceful night sleep.

2. Scale the lighting


A lamp on a nightstand is a no brainer for logistical purposes. After all, you kind of need to see when the sun goes down. But it’s important to properly scale the size of your lighting to your nightstand and bed. If you have a petite bedside table, an equally petite lamp would work best. Here, the sizable lighting commands attention but doesn’t fight with the scale of the substantial nightstand or headboard. Large bedside tables are great but can be challenging to style because there’s so much space (a bad problem to have, clearly). The right (and large enough) scale for the items you choose is important for this one. A good and large enough lamp really helps to anchor the look. Then with the other accessories, you don’t want things to feel too bitsy and small. This one is also fun because it can be more decorative. You have the space so take advantage.

One hot tip for keeping the lighting looking great, is to secure its chord. Fasten the cords and plugs to a leg of the nightstand with clear plastic cable clips to keep them from becoming unwieldy.

3. Arrange books


Books are an essential nightstand item, with both a function and an aesthetic value. They can make the table feel warm and lived in, while also making it easy for you to access your favourite read of the moment. They can be styled in many different ways, standing up with the spine facing outward, or lying down stacked. If you choose to have just one book on the table, great! You can just place it on the table where it’s easily accessible. With more than one book, you’ll want to come up with a system of placement. You can even use large art books as decorative and spatial elements, creating an elevated area to place something on, making the table feel dynamic and interesting. Of course, you need a big enough coffee table so that the books don’t dwarf it for this to work. One other option that I’ve seen that can be quite simple and beautiful, creating a laid back and rustic feeling, it using large books themselves, stacked on top of one another, as the table itself. Of course, this doesn’t make it the most stable and functional table, but if you just want to place a vase or a cup of coffee  on it, this option can work just beautifully!

4. Use Art or Sculpture to Decorate


Adding a piece of art on the small wall space above the night stand can be really lovely. I love how this creates substance in the small space. Instead of  hanging something above the bed, try the sides above your nightstand. Why not place the mirror or art next to the bed. A Piece of art can also be leaned on the wall sitting on the table, creating a Bohemian vibe. If you happen to own any small sculptures, like ceramic animals, or brass sculptures, or even wood carvings, they can be placed ontop of your books, or just on the table next to your lamp. They can really add to the full composition of the tabletop.

Incorporating texture into bedside table styling creates a captivating display instantly. Before deciding on which textures to use, consider the surface you’re dealing with.

Naturally, different styles of bedside tables – whether they’re made from rich wood, mirrored glass or metal – call to be dressed with different textures. Smooth accents – think ceramic vases and table lamps – look incredible against high-shine veneers. Tactile accents, from hammered metal pieces to coral sculptures, complement tables with a highly visible grain or draw the right attention when contrasted against a sleek glass surface. Personal touches also offer a beautiful way to enhance a nightstand. Picture frames filled with sentimental photographs or artwork help to make a bedside arrangement truly yours. Candles in your favourite scent or a vase filled with your most-loved flowers also make for individual touches.


5. Place a Tray or Bowl for Accumulating Little Things


Everything looks more purposeful and put together in a tray. Here, we used a clear acrylic version to keep the vignette light and airy, but any tray will do that’s roughly the depth of your nightstand but shorter than its length. Add in books (whether just for looks or to actually read!), a small vase with colorful flowers, a candle for ambience, and if it fits, a little personal memento. I personally always have little elastics, earrings, coins, or really any little object that I end up needing a space for, and if I don’t have a dedicated one, will just get lost. The tray can really be any style you choose, it can be a ceramic bowl, or a glass display tray, or even a little metal box, to keep the look really clean. The object itself can add to the visual composition of the

6. Keep the Number of Items Below 5


One of the absolute keys to en pointe bedside styling has to be – less is more. Whilst the choice of unique accessories out there can make it tempting to over-style your nightstand, a few power pieces will always be more effective than a load of ordinary accents. It’s important to remember that accessories are there to enhance, not hide, the surface of your bedside table. Don’t be afraid to embrace bare space and let carefully chosen, timeless designs reveal and flatter the craftsmanship and materials of your tabletop.

Your nightstand should be more than just a dumping ground for eyeglasses, loose change, and lip balms. As one of the main pieces of furniture in your bedroom, it deserves to shine. While such a piece of furniture should certainly be a workhorse to some extent, by no means do you need to sacrifice style. Keeping the number of items on the surface below five essential ones will limit the excess, and allow each element to be thoughtful and beautiful: shining in its own right.

7. Keep Space Open for Cups & Mugs


This goes with the previous item on the list, as de-cluttering the tabletop will leave you that extra counter space you need to be able to put down your coffee mug in the morning when you’re sitting reading the newspaper in bed on a lazy Sunday morning. For not knocking it over, it’s essential that this space isn’t sequestered to the edge of the table right next to your bed. Leave ample room so that it can move a little inland, making it more secure against flailing arms, or maybe even jumping puppies(if you let your puppy on the bed, that is).

6 Must-Have Items for the Ultimate Bedside Table

1. Lamp

Most people like to read in bed or at least have access to a light without having to walk across a dark room to turn on the overhead light switch. You can have a freestanding lamp on your nightstand or bedside table, or you can have a wall mounted lamp with a switch within arms reach while laying in bed. It’s important to think of each and every item as an opportunity to decorate: each item should have a purpose, but also look beautiful. The lamp is no exception. Have fun with it! There are so many incredible lamps on the market, so you can really find one that expresses your personal style.

Glass Mushroom Bedside Table Lamp,Mushroom Night Light Vintage Style Striped Small Nightstand Desklamp USB Table Lamp for Home Decor (Monochrome Warm Light)

2. Alarm Clock

Most everyone has an alarm clock, so why not get a beautiful one? If you prefer one that has many functions but is not very attractive, consider hiding it behind another object on your nightstand or bedside table. I myself own one that has a charging station on top, a USB plug in the back, a radio feature, and its wooden and quite beautiful. It has changed my life since I got it, allowing me to not look at my phone first thing in the morning when I wake up. I love it, and it adds to the beauty of my bedside table.

Digital Alarm Clock, with Wooden Electronic LED Time Display, 3 Alarm Settings, Humidity & Temperature Detect, Wood Made Electric Clocks for Bedroom, Bedside… (Black)

3. The Perfect Catch-All

Keep a small, decorative bowl near your bedside to catch anything you take off prior to catching some Zzz, like jewelry or glasses. That way, they’re easy to find in the morning. The options here are endless. Everything looks more purposeful and put together in a tray. A clear acrylic version can keep the vignette light and airy.  If you do decide you want to put more in there than jewelry and glasses, getting a closed box can be a great way to hide things like chords maybe even a moisturizer.

Umbra Prisma Jewelry Tray, Nickel

4. Books

Your book choice is very personal, but most books also have extremely beautiful and well designed covers. With little effort, they can add a design element to your table top. With so many books in existence, in a huge variety of colours and designs, it is entirely possible to style your bedroom library by hue. Start with your bedroom’s palette and then take a look at your collection to find complementary colours.On the other end of the spectrum is this simple idea: separating books into colour blocks, which makes a high impact statement.

Some people collect art, I collect coffee table books. Not only are they absolutely beautiful, but some of them actually have a ton of useful information in them too. My favorite coffee table books are about home decor, and they’re a wonderful source of inspiration. Make sure to stack your largest book at the bottom and end with the smallest book on top. Ultimately, you want to buy books because you want to read them, but they can definitely balance that fine line between interesting and beautiful.

The Bedside Book of Birds: An Avian Miscellany

5. Plant or Vase

You want your sleep space to feel zen, and nature can play a key role in helping achieve that goal. “Fresh flowers or potted plants are a must for bringing in a natural element,” designer Holly Hickey Moore says. You may wish to choose something that won’t require too much attention if you lead an extra busy lifestyle but still want to add a touch of green to your bedroom. There are plants out there that range from large to teeny-tiny, like a little cactus. There is also the option of just using a vase with flowers, which is nice because you can change it up pretty frequently for a different look. Each time the flowers die, they can be replaced with a new colourful display to brighten your room, and add a nice scent by your bed just as your waking up!

Abbittar Ceramic Vase Set of 3, Small Flower Vases for Rustic Home Decor, Modern Farmhouse Decor, Living Room Decor, Shelf Decor, Table Decor, Bookshelf, Mantel and Entryway Decor - Beige


There are many decisions to make, from the size of the coffee table, to how many drawers, to sconce versus table lamp. Ultimately, it’s all about creating simplicity, flow, and balance. Visually, you want a balance of big and small, texture and simplicity, and form and function. You want the experience of using the nightstand to flow easily, and feel seamless. As you settle in for the night, the book you want to read is right there, you can place your jewelry right in the tray, then set your alarm and go to bed knowing you’ll be woken up by the soothing sound of your favourite morning radio hosts’ voice.

Hidden behind doors, it’s easy to put off giving this space the attention it needs, but I promise, it doesn’t take much to get it in tip-top, show-off-to-guests shape. Plus, you want to put attention in the spaces that may be just for you. It doesn’t matter whether other people will see it, you will see and experience it every day, and that is important. Think of it as an act of self-care, making sure that the spaces that you use daily are beautiful and functional.

6. Device charger

WAITIEE Wireless Charger 3 in 1, 15W Fast Charging Station for Apple iWatch SE/6/5/4/3/2/1,AirPods Pro, Compatible with iPhone 13/12/12 Pro Max/11 Series/XS Max/XR/XS/X/8/8 Plus/Samsung Galaxy (Black)

Device charger or cord set up for charging devices and maybe even a smartwatch if you have one.  In fact, for many folks, their device is their alarm clock rendering the need for an alarm clock unnecessary.  With the right charger, you can display your phone upright as pictured above to serve as an alarm clock plus charge other stuff.


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