Dreaming of a beautiful bedside? Picture-perfect nightstands don’t need to be the things of reverie. In fact, once you’ve committed to nightstands that take a decorative stance (and cleared off less-than-aesthetic clutter), you’re halfway there. Add just two or three items — and a personal pledge to keep LaCroix cans and business cards at bay — you’re well on your way to nightstands that impress! To get you inspired, we’ve collected a delightful edit of nightstands that dial up the bedside drama. Read on to see how designers curate the most dreamy bedside settings.

RELATED READ: Sleeper Hits! How to Pick the Right Bedroom Pieces

Boy's bedroom with plaid bedspread, desk nightstand and black Bertoia chair
Design by Kylee Shintaffer / Photo by Eric Piasecki

What Can You Put on a Nightstand?

While it’s all up to personal preference, integrating one or two of the below items can make your nightstand as functional as it is eye-catching. 

Twin canopy beds with pink floral drapery and wood nighstands topped with a white plaster style floral lamp with pleated shade
Design by Hillary W. Taylor Interiors / Photo by Nathan Schroder


If you have room for only one item on your nightstand, consider making it a lamp. Even if your bedroom has overhead lighting, it likely emits a light that’s too bright or too harsh for pre-bed, wind-down rituals like reading. Lamps can lend your room more ambiance, plus, they tend to be tall — and as any designer will tell you, height is an essential element in any vignette, bedside or not. 


Whether it’s a place to drop jewelry or permanently store your earbuds or keys, a catchall or decorative bowl can add function and style to your nightstand. Choose a bowl that’s in scale with your nightstand, and if you feel like it needs a bit more presence, try pedestaling it on a few books. If you’ve ever admired glass bowls from makers like Murano, Lalique, or Orrefors, but wondered what to do with them, the answer is — this! 

Bedroom iwth green leather tufted bed and gray wood nighstands topped with a green malachite column lamp
Design courtesy of Dina Bandman Interiors


If you have nighttime necessities like eyeglasses, water carafes, and eye creams, a tray can help bring order to them so they don’t feel like a disarray of clutter. If you have a nightstand with a shelf, outfitting it with a tray is an especially smart move. It’s an easy way to lend a shelf a design element without having to invest in several other pieces of decor. Whether you toss in-progress books on it, cosmetics, or a handbag, it will make everything look pulled-together and polished. 


Yes, your phone tells time, but there’s something about the charm of an old-fashioned clock that can’t be denied. If you’re looking for a unique object to put on your nightstand that’s also functional in a pinch, a clock might be it. Look for stone designs as well as collectible Mid-Century Modern designs from makers like George Nelson

Designer Cortney Bishop's bedroom features a regency side table fashioned as a nightstand topped with an atomic Mid-Century lamp and a polish stone egg sculpture
Photo by Katie Charlotte

Photo Frames

Often overlooked, but oh-so fitting in a place where you start and end your day are photo frames filled with personal photos. Since most nightstands only have space for a single photo, choose a frame with some visual heft. A stone frame with a weighted base, or heavy braided glass frame can lend a single photo some well–needed visual presence.  


You’ll rarely see a nightstand devoid of fresh flowers. Whether it’s a few knockout blooms or a foraged nosegay, an organic element can break up a nightstand’s hard angles. Keep a vase on hand to pop blooms in whenever you pick some up from the store or happen across some beauties the garden. 

How to Style 

whimsical side table ideas, sculptural side tables
Design by Benjamin Dhong / Photo by John Merkl

Go with a unique table 

One way to make sure your nightstand truly shines? Choose a nightstand that’s anything but ordinary. Since nightstands tend to be fairly boxy by nature, consider searching for a side table rather than a textbook nightstand. So long as your table measures between 24-30 inches high, it should function fine as a nightstand. 

Photo by Sarah Dorio

Mismatch them 

A nightstand set may look neat and orderly, but matching nightstands can make a bedroom feel a bit predictable. To shake up the usual bedroom routine, consider complementary nightstands rather than sets. To pull off the look, opt for nightstands in similar colors or styles. Your nightstands don’t need to be perfect height matches, either. Artwork hung above both nightstands at equal heights can give the illusion your tables are the same height, even if they aren’t. 

Nightstand dressed in navy blue piped skit, with aqua ceramic lamp, books, horn bowl, and hyacinths in a silver julep cup
Design by Becky Nielsen / Photo by Marisa Vitale

Skirt it

Trying to teach an old nightstand new tricks? If so, consider draping it in a skirt. A custom-made fabric skirt is a perfect way to tie nightstands into your bedding and evoke a soft, layered look. If your nightstand has drawers, make sure your skirt is tailored with split seams to make them easily accessible. 

Oakland Contemporary Primary Bedroom with simple white modern nightstand and green-gray walls
Design by Form + Field / Photo by Suzanna Scott

Go Minimalist

There’s no rule that says your nightstand needs to be laden with decor. In fact, opting for a nearly bare nightstand can make an impactful statement as well. To pull off the look, opt for a nightstand that has a reduced surface area to begin with. To eliminate the need for a lamp, rig up a sconce over your nightstand. When it comes to decorating your nightstand itself, consider crowning it with a single piece of sculptural decor that can hold its own in the center. Doing so leaves empty space around the edges for holding over a book or pair of eyeglasses if needed. 

Arts and crafts Voysey wallpaper with kids desk styled as a nightstand in this family-friendly bedroom
Design by IDF Studio / Photo by Christopher Stark

Make it a desk

Short on space? If so, transform one of your nightstands into a desk area. Whether you’re trying to work a workspace into a kid’s room, guest room, or primary bedroom, the area adjacent next to a bed is premium space. In general, you want to select a small writing desk for the task — nothing much bigger than a large-size nightstand. Outfit it in a few functional but decorative accessories — lamps, boxes, books — and, if you can, forgo an office chair for a piece with some sculptural clout. A sculptural chair will help your bedside desk read more like art installation than workspace, which in turn, will help keep your bedroom feeling restful, not stressful.

Shop Nightstands >>

Lead photo design by Becky Nielsen / Photo by Marisa Vitale


File Under

May 31, 2023

Chairish is the design lover's indispensable online source for chic and unique decor, art, furniture and home decorating inspiration. Shop our expert curation of exclusive and diverse inventory with 1,000+ new arrivals daily. Happy hunting!