There is more than one reason that you might end up with mismatched nightstands in a bedroom. Maybe you adopted your ex-roommate’s abandoned bedside table, or you and your partner each brought separate nightstands into your new relationship, or perhaps you inherited an impossible-to-part-with vintage mid-century modern bedside table that had long ago separated from its other half.
But having mismatched nightstands isn’t always an accident of fate. While some people wouldn’t dream of having mismatched nightstands, for others, twin bedside tables feel too matchy-matchy, an outdated relic from the days of mass-produced matching furniture sets. Today, many leading interior designers and experienced home decorators choose to mix and match nightstands on purpose.
Mismatched nightstands say we are a pair, and we look good together, but we are not twins. We each have our own identity and bring something unique to the relationship. Choosing mismatched nightstands is the confident move of a free spirit who knows that the key to designing a personal, unique space is often the element of surprise, the embrace of a detail that is a little off, the subtle tweak that pulls a room together.
Nevertheless, it does take a bit of skill to pair mismatched nightstands in a way that looks intentional, or nonchalantly effortless, rather than like a mistake or a stopgap. Read on to learn how to choose or style mismatched nightstands to complement your decor and become a feature, not a flaw, of your bedroom design.
Degrees of Separation
For a more polished look, pair nightstands of an identical or closely similar height and size, which will still look symmetrical at first glance. Choosing nightstands of noticeably different heights will create a more asymmetrical look.
If you are trying to make two existing nightstands of varying heights, interior designer Lisa Gilmore of Lisa Gilmore Design suggests styling them to create balance. “Using boxes and books on shelves creates a lot of interest while also filling in any visual holes,” the designer says.
Mix Shapes, Formats, and Materials
While you can mix and match nightstands of similar proportions, you can also experiment with mixing shapes, formats, and materials. Pair a closed chest of drawers with a simple table, or a wall-mounted metal shelf with a vintage wooden stool. Gilmore likes to mix round and square shapes on either side of the bed.
"When thinking of mixing nightstands, it's very important to make sure your scale is accurate,” Gilmore says. “They really should be the same height (or close to) and also take up about the same visual space (meaning width) on each side of the bed.”
Stick to a Time Period or Style
If you’re looking to add a nightstand to keep your vintage mid-century modern nightstand company, you don’t need to find an exact match. But sticking to the same era or style will ensure that each nightstand shares the same basic DNA while retaining its own distinct features.
Choose Similar Wood Finishes
While there are no rules against mixing wood finishes, when it comes to nightstands, keeping the same tones is one way to ensure that they will look good together without matching. Pair a walnut finish with your mid-century modern nightstand, and if you’re starting with a vintage model, look for another. The patina won’t be identical, each nightstand having lived its own life before joining the other in the bedroom. But it will be similar enough to prevent visual dissonance.
Paint to Unify
Antique or vintage nightstands with a rich patina should be celebrated and left alone, but if you’re working with a mismatched pair of beaten-up thrift store nightstands in dated wood tones, painting them both in the same color will create visual coherence.
Use Lighting to Create Symmetry
One reason some designers find using mismatched nightstands so appealing is that it breaks up the forced symmetry of a standard bedroom design anchored by a bed with twin bedside tables and matching lamps flanking it on either side. A room that is too matchy-matchy can look staged, but one styled with too many disparate elements can feel chaotic.
Balance mismatched nightstands with matching light fixtures to create symmetry and maintain a harmonious look. This works whether your preferred bedside lighting is a table lamp, industrial task light, wall sconce, pendant light, or chandelier. (Keep in mind that if you have matching nightstands, you can swap this hack and choose mismatched table lamps instead, taking care to pair them successfully by choosing a similar style, or unifying different styles with matching lampshades.)
Consider the Angles
If your bed is the first thing you see when you walk into the bedroom, mismatched nightstands will be more noticeable and often work better if they are the same height. If your bed is anchored to one side of the room, making the nightstand the farthest from the door less visible, you have more flexibility and might want to go for an asymmetrical look with nightstands of different heights. While there are no hard and fast rules, generally the nightstand closer to the door should be the shorter one, since the taller one will recede in the distance.