4 Basic Rules for Decorating With Bedside Tables

bedside table with minimal decor

The Spruce / Erica Lang 

While the bed is always the most important piece in any bedroom, the room isn't complete without at least one bedside table (or two, if you have a partner).


Bedside tables come in a variety of sizes and shapes and may have any number of features. A few examples:

  • Nightstands—small, simple pieces designed to hold a lamp and a clock.
  • Simple tables—may be designed for any room in the house, but small enough for bedside use.
  • Bedside cabinets—small chests of drawers or cabinets with drawers and other storage areas.

Your choice will depend on your budget, the size of your room, the size of your bed, and your storage needs.

Shopping Considerations

Bedside tables serve two functions. They provide a surface to place necessary items like a lamp, a book, a glass of water, or whatever else you may want to keep close by the bed. Many also have storage, and they help anchor the bed, so it doesn't look like it's just floating in the room. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for or accessorizing bedside tables.

  • Size: People use everything from small chests, to desks, to side chairs and even small stools as bedside tables. If they look good and work for the space, go for it. Before making a final choice, though, remember these important size rules. Bedside tables should always be about the same height as the mattress. Anything much higher or lower doesn't look quite right. When it comes to depth, you don't want anything much deeper than about 24 inches. Anything bigger than that can make it a bit awkward to get in and out of bed. It's fine to go as small as you want as long as it's still practical and suits your needs.
  • Storage: Many people choose bedside tables that contain storage. These types of tables are great because you can store books, slippers, or anything else, but if you prefer a minimalist look feel free to choose something without extra storage space. For a really clean and spare look, you can even install a shelf or wall bracket around the height of the mattress instead of using a traditional table.
  • Accessories: When it comes to accessorizing, your bedside tables should stay simple. A lamp, a clock and maybe a small vase of flowers or a photo frame are all you need. Remember that bedside tables are meant to be practical. Find somewhere else to display knickknacks. You don't want to accidentally reach over in the night and knock over a ton of accessories.
  • To match or not to match?: The most common look is to have two matching tables on either side of a large bed, but this isn't necessary. If you find two separate tables you love, use them. If you want the room to look coordinated, put matching lamps on each of the tables to help tie the two looks together. Of course, for a uniform look, feel free to use traditional pairs.