5 Tips for Styling a Nightstand

Styling a Nightstand 101

Styling a nightstand should be easy right? You have seen them again in your favorite home decor magazine: beautifully styled nightstands and bedside tables. Have you ever wanted to try that look? Let me guess, you’ve poured over a million Pinterest boards and think you’ve got the formula figured out and then #pinterestfail #sadfaceemoji

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Whether done in traditional or minimalist style, a beautifully styled nightstand can make a real impact on the look of your bedroom. You might be surprised to know the ‘why’ of styling is much more important than the ‘what’. A traditional bedside table or nightstand has a lamp, books, small accessories, maybe a small floral arrangement, and perhaps a piece of art hung on the wall or placed on the surface. A minimalist nightstand may only have a simple lamp and a clock, but they all have a few things in common…

  1. A great nightstand
  2. Appropriate lighting
  3. Appropriately scale
  4. A variety of shapes
  5. Accessorizing
Shoppable Coastal Transitional board
ArtSilver BranchBoxLampTwine BallNightstandHeadboardShamPillow

1 – Choosing the Right Nightstand

The first step of selecting the right nightstand is deciding if you want something more fashionable or something more classic. The nightstand is a great place to add some great style, but do you want the nightstand itself to be the centerpiece of this fashion statement or would you rather use the lighting or art to tell that story?

If you prefer a more classic look for your nightstand, then you may want to invest in a high-quality piece of furniture, perhaps something that is part of a collection that coordinates with your dresser and other case goods. However, if you want to use the nightstand to bring some fashion into your room, you may want to select something that does is not part of a suite of furniture.

If you want a higher quality piece, make sure you look for quality indicators, such as solid wood, dovetail joinery on the drawers, high quality hardwoods, and sturdy hardware. A piece like this will be more expensive, but will last and look great for a very long time.

The second thing you should consider is how much bedside storage do you want or need. If you need to store clothing or other items, such as eyewear, medications, or reading materials in your nightstand, you will want to have a closed nightstand with at least two drawers. Closed nightstands are usually a great idea for a master bedroom. However, if you are furnishing a guest bedroom, or have ample storage for clothing and personal items in other areas, you might want to consider an open nightstand with one drawer or even a table or desk.

The key here is to select a piece of furniture that meets your storage needs so that you can keep the surface of your nightstand neat and free of clutter. Nothing will spoil the bedside vignette faster than unwanted clutter!

shoppable coastal farmhouse board

2 – Let There Be Lighting

You need some type of task lighting at your bedside. We perform variety of activities in our beds and some of them, like reading, require some lighting.  You will also want lighting to be on until you get in the bed to illuminate your path. Then, you will want lighting as soon as you wake in morning.

There are three basic types of lighting that can be used at the bedside: lamps, sconces, and pendants.


Table lamps are the most popular and can be the most affordable options for bedside lighting. Some of the advantages of using a lamp at the bedside is that they can be easily changed out and they can add a lot of shape and color to the setting. More importantly, they do not require any hardwiring electrical work or damage to the drywall, as the other options do.

Lamps come in so many sizes, shapes, and styles that you could never run out of options. However, uniquely shaped or boldly colored lamps make a great focal point for your bedside vignette.

Sconces & Pendants

Sconces and pendants can be a great option if you want to create more space on your nightstand or if you are creating a minimal look. Pendants and sconces can give the space a very unique look because they are a little unexpected. There are also many stylish pendants and sconces on the market, so finding a suitable style will not be an issue.

There are a few disadvantages of using sconces and pendants as bedside lighting. The first disadvantage is the permanent nature of hardwired lighting. If you do not have a lighting receptacle in the desired location, you will be required to have an electrician add a receptacle and install the lighting.

Another disadvantage is the location of the switching. If you want control switching from the bed, you will wither need to place it by the bed, which can be unsightly, or you will need some type of remote control for the lighting. With all of the smart home technology available, this is possible, but it will be costly.

The key takeaway is that sconces and pendants can be a very attractive and distinctive look for bedside lighting, but it takes a little more planning and may be more a financial investment than a simple table lamp.

shoppable transitional glam board
NightstandLampsArtCandleGinger JarTrayBoxFoo Dog

3 – Size Matters

Size matters when it comes to matters of the bedside. To create a really beautiful bedside vignette, you will want to make sure that each item is in proportion to the bed and the other items in the vignette.


When selecting a nightstand, make sure it is in proportion to the size of your bed. Using typical guidelines for proportion, you would want to select a nightstand that is any where between 1/3 and 2/5 the width of the bed. This will keep the nightstand from looking too small or too large for the bed. This is really most important when you are using a nightstand on each side of the bed.

Following those rules, the size ranges for nightstands for each bed size would be:

  • King: 25″ – 30″
  • Queen: 20″ – 24″
  • Full: 18″-21″
  • Twin: 13″ – 15″

However, rules are meant to be bent…

These are the circumstances where I would bend the rules. If you are only going to have one nightstand with one bed, you could have a wider nightstand, but I still wouldn’t exceed 2/3 the width of the bed. You may want to use this arrangement when you have one nightstand between two twin beds or two full-sized beds.


You always want to make sure that your lighting and other bedside decor are in proportion to your nightstand and bed. The height and width of the lamp will be very important in this formula. A lamp or fixture that is too small or too large for the vignette will look awkward. I’m sure you’ve seen it before, tiny nightstand and a giant lamp or a huge king bed and nightstand and a tiny lamp.

Too big or too small lamp = Not a good look!

I use the same rules for selecting lamp sizes as I do for nightstands. I usually select something that is about 1/3 the width of the nightstand and 1/3-2/5 the height of the nightstand. Another factor I consider is the height of the headboard of the bed and the overall shape that that is created by the headboard, art, lamp, and accessories create when they are styled, which I will discuss in further detail in the next section.

shoppable transitional classic board
NightstandLampMirrorTissue BoxBowlsTrayBoxBooks

4 – Creating Shape

I typically use shape in two ways when I style a nightstand. I consider the shape of the overall vignette and I like to include a variety of shapes within the vignette.

Overall Shape

You want the overall shape of the vignette to lead the eye over the arrangement in a way that makes sense. The most popular and easiest shape to manage is a pyramid shape. This would include any art over the bed, the headboard of the bed, and the objects on the nightstand. The art over the bed being the highest point and each subsequent object leading the eye lower. This gives the overall vignette a more visually dynamic look.

Another popular shape is a rectangle. This works well if you want the eye to rest at a particular height. In this shape, you would hang the art level with top of the bed and lamp. You can see in. The pictures below how the two shapes create a different feeling.

drawing of the diagonal shape created by styling a nightstand
An Example of pyramid shape.
rectangular shape created by styling a nightstand
An example of rectangular shape.

Shapes within the Vignette

The second way you can use shape on your nightstand is by using accessories in various shapes within the vignette. If you’re going for a minimalist look, select a lamp that has an interesting shape to add some visual interest. Then maybe just one uniquely shaped item on beside the lamp, as you see in the image below.

nightstand vignette with gourd shaped glass lamp

If you are more of a maximalist, try to include rectangular, rounded, and cylindrical shapes on your nightstand. The image below has a lamp with a cylindrical base, rectangular books, the organic shape of the leaves, and a smaller cylinder. The vignette still offers a clean look, but the variety of shapes give it some visual interest.

nightstand vignette with books and glass lamp

5 – Tying It All Together

As I mentioned above, you will want to have some variety in the shapes of the accessories on your nightstand. For a minimal look, you may only want one or two small items on the nightstand, but you will want those items to vary in size, shape, color, and/or texture. In the first vignette above, we used a small piece of white coral to convey the coastal, contemporary vibe, while maintaining a minimal look.

However, if you’re more of a maximalist, you will want to have plenty of items on your nightstand and have a lot of variety in them. I suggest using a piece of art either hung on the wall or leaning against the wall as the backdrop. Then you can add a lamp with a lot of color and texture. You can partially cover the art if you like, giving the vignette a layered look. Add a stack of books or a rectangular box with a short organically shaped or round object. Then, in front of the books, you can add another smaller object.

In the vignette below, we used a similar layered technique. We used bright colors and a variety of textures and shapes to tell the story. All of this tops a two drawer nightstand with an open shelf above the drawers. The open shelf is used to store extra books and a closed, nay blue box for personal items.

What makes this vignette work is that the nightstand is in proportion to the king sized bed, the lamp is in proportion to the nightstand, and the objects add extra visual interest. The overall shape created is graduated from the top of the bed and all of the accessories work together.

nightstand vignette with gold lamp

What are some ways that you can use lighting, scale, and shape to make a beautiful bedside vignette? Make sure to leave your comments below.

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