5 Expert Rules for Choosing a Nightstand That Is the Right Size

Bedroom with soft pinks, mauves, and creams

Stephanie Goldman / Photo by Michael Blevins

Choosing a nightstand is always an enjoyable process, simply because of the sheer amount of options on the market. Are you seeking a piece with two drawers? How about three? Or would you prefer none in order to maintain a more sleek look? And are you more inclined to purchase a glam mirrored style or are you drawn to a boho rattan piece? Yet with so many styles of bedside tables to choose from, designers agree that it is important to take size and proportion into account before adding a possible option to your cart. “As much as I enjoy rebelling against general practices and rules, there are some essential considerations when choosing the size of a nightstand,” designer Marie Cloud said. 

Rule 1: Get the Proportions Right—Starting With the Bed

Cloud and the other designers we spoke with agree that proportion is key. “Many times, I’ve come into a client’s space where they ended up buying a bedside table that was either too small or too large, not knowing or understanding the scale of the bedside tables,” designer Peti Lau reflected. But, she explained, before one even thinks about selecting nightstands, it’s first important to determine the proper size bed for the space. Just because you’ve slept on a full sized bed in your studio apartment doesn't mean it's the right piece for your master bedroom in the suburbs. “If you have a large room, a queen size bed feels rather small, and if you have a king size bed in a tiny room, that really doesn’t help unless all you want to do is be able to literally hop on the bed and nothing else,” Lau said. 

Bedroom with upholstered headboard, wood nightstand, and window

Stephanie Goldman by Michael Blevins

Rule 2: Measure for Height and Width

Upon determining the proper size of bed to purchase, you’ll then want to look into nightstand measurements. “The advice I give is that the height of the average bedside table should be between 24 and 28 inches in height, giving you 25 inches from the floor to the mattress,” Lau shared. “The width depends on how much space you have left.” Designer Emily Starr Alfano agreed. “You don’t want it to be much lower or higher than your mattress height or you’ll be reaching awkwardly for things on it,” she explained. “In terms of width, I think you can have a little more fun.” Just take other pieces in the space into consideration, of course. Shared Goldman, “For our clients, I like to make sure the weight of the furniture is balanced throughout the room for the best visual appeal.” 

Peti by Brittany Ambridge

Peti by Brittany Ambridge

Rule 3: Think Outside the Box

We see many traditional two-drawer bedside tables in design magazines, but it’s ok to think outside the box a bit when it comes to your own space. As long as they conform to these measurement guidelines, bedside tables don’t need to be one particular style, Lau noted. “Sometimes a bedside table can be the second dresser for more storage if you have a lot of space in your headboard wall,” she shared. Designer Stephanie Goldman agreed. “I personally love using big chests for a symmetrical look when I work with clients,” she said.

Living in a small space, I personally have opted to place an antique vanity on one side of my queen sized bed, and the piece serves double duty as both a spot to apply makeup and functions as a desk when needed. In a previous apartment, I used a small vintage chest as a nightstand, making use of its many drawers to hold odds and ends including magazines, stationery, beauty products, and much more. Even a bar cart can serve a new purpose as a bedside table, as can a round end table—designer Doris Roberts used a round, three-tiered mirrored table in one of her recent projects. 


Peti by Marco Ricca

Rule 4: Don't Worry About Matching Tables

According to Alfano, bedside tables don’t need to match, either. “For instance, in my old bedroom, we only had room for one nightstand and used a vintage one I found on Facebook Marketplace,” she shared. “Now that we have room for another nightstand, I’m searching for another vintage style that will go nicely with the existing one but not match it exactly.” And such a setup can still look nice and cohesive. “If asymmetry isn’t your thing, you can add symmetry with other items, like a pair of matching lamps or matching artwork above each, to create a balanced look,” designer Caroline Agee said. 


Habiba Koroma by Chinasa Cooper

Rule 5: Keep Your Specific Routine in Mind—Functionality Is Important

Additionally, keeping in mind your daily routines and needs is an important part of the bedside table selection process. “There should also be enough space for a glass of water, a book or two, a framed photo, and a lamp, although a wall sconce will work if space is limited,” Agee stated. Added Cloud, “Overall, if your proportions are aligned, functional needs are met, and there is space to style with complimentary items you have conquered the nightstand size battle!”