Nightstands & Night Tables Buying Guide

When you roll over in a sleepy haze to hit the snooze button, the clock is within reach thanks to the nightstand. Often an unheralded piece of furniture, a nightstand or night table -- the terms are used interchangeably -- also holds aloft our reading lamps and keeps mystery novels and electronic tablets handy.

Types of Nightstands & Night Tables

Types of Nightstands & Night Tables

Sure, you can spend next to nothing, stack a piece of wood on some cinder blocks, and have a functional nightstand. Or you could spend just a few dollars more (night stands are likely the least expensive pieces of furniture you will buy for your bedroom) and give some thought to the style and storage that goes next to your bed. There are two types: simple and special.

Simple Nightstands & Night Tables

In its most basic form, a nightstand or night table can be just that -- a table. Night tables are sized to reach the top of the mattress, which makes them 25-30 inches tall. The surface area can vary, but most are at least 15 inches square, which is big enough for a lamp, a clock, and a book or glass of water. Other simple nightstands have a drawer, cabinet, shelf, or cubby for storage. They come in any style, color, or finish to coordinate with your other bedroom furniture.

Special Nightstands & Night Tables

Beyond the basic versions, some nightstands have special features that can be fun to explore. They may be extra short, extra tall, super skinny, unusually wide, or made of interesting materials, such as reclaimed wood or sheet metal. They may cling to the wall rather than sit on the floor, which makes vacuuming easy. Some include charging stations, docks and phone jacks, or light fixtures in the overall design. And still others may have a mini refrigerator to keep cool refreshments at hand or a built-in safe for valuables.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

Don't lie awake fretting about this purchase. A nightstand should be an easy -- even fun -- thing to shop for. You will get years of use out of it, particularly if you pick one that fits your space, offers some storage, and doesn't try to perform magic tricks.

Size

The most sensible height for a bedside table is one that matches the mattress height, which is convenient to reach from a prone position. If you sit up in bed to read, however, you want the light source to come over your shoulder. So you may need a slightly taller table to boost the lamp (or find a taller lamp). Some modern bedrooms have nightstands that are several inches lower than the mattress, which can create a sleek look.

Storage

Nightstands tend to be catchalls for spare jewelry, cold medicine, music players, and myriad other objects. To keep those items from cluttering the surface, choose a piece of furniture with a storage component. If you don't want your scented lotions on display, choose a nightstand with a drawer or cabinet. If you like your books to be easily accessible, look for open shelves.

Features

How many times have you wished for a cup of steaming coffee to appear on the bedside table when the alarm sounds? As appealing as this may be, the nightstand with the built-in coffee pot -- or the built-in iPod dock or electronic tablet stand for that matter -- will rarely live up to its promise. Eventually, the quirky extra features that seemed such a good idea will be rendered obsolete, or your needs will simply change.

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