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Simple 6 Step Formula for Decorating Any Nightstand + Bonus Styling Tips

March 14, 2022

Nightstand with brass lamp and vase of flowers

Taking you step by step through decorating a bedroom nightstand that is both pretty and functional. Learn about choosing lighting, how to include storage, and bonus decorating tips that will have you styling like a pro.

DESIGN + STYLE   |   Updated January 24, 2024

Bedroom and nightstand

Amber Interiors @amberinteriors

When redesigning a bedroom, a lot of time is spent thinking about decorating with bedding, rugs, and pillows.

But you shouldn't forget about how you are styling your nightstand in order to pull the room together and complete the look.

For many, the nightstand is purely functional - there to hold a glass of water, book you are reading, and cell phone as it charges. Serving a utilitarian purpose doesn't mean that it can't also be beautiful while positioned next to your nicely styled bed, however. Even for minimalists, there is opportunity to merge form and function.

How does one go about decorating their bedside table? And how do you find a balance between the the ordinary things you need accessible and the accessories that are purely pretty? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and many more foolproof nightstand styling tips.

Black nightstand with brass lamp and white vase of flowers

Include a Statement Lamp

Arazi Levine @arazi_levine_design

Function does not have to equate to boring. Add style to your nightstand with a statement light source like this brass one included in Arazi's design. There is no need for a lot of objects when you have something eye catching on display. A beautiful vase of fresh flowers completes the look.


STEP 1:  Decide What You Actually Need

First and foremost, a nightstand is beside your bed to keep the things you need accessible. There is no point in designing a pretty vignette if it doesn't serve your needs as well.

Take a few moments before you start buying decor or styling your pieces to consider what is most important for this small piece of furniture to hold so that they can be figured into your plans. If you share the bed, it is important for both of you to do this as each side can be styled to meet that person's needs.

What you decide is a necessity will determine what and how many of decorative objects you add to your nightstand.

A traditionally decorated bedside table may contain a lamp, books, small accessories, floral arrangement and art leaning up against the wall.  On the other hand, a more minimalist look may include just a lamp, clock and perhaps art hanging behind the nightstand.

Pick and choose just those items that you feel will serve the purpose of making your nightstand functional and beautiful.

Nightstand next to bed in white bedroom

Use the Window

Style by Emily Henderson @em_henderson

When you have a window on one or both sides of the bed, embrace it as part of your design as Emily did here. There is no need for a piece of artwork or mirror hanging behind your nightstand as the window acts as the backdrop to your vignette. Keep the styling simple with your lamp and a few low decorative objects.

STEP 2:  Choose Your Lighting Source

Bedside lights provide illumination as you move through your room before bed, allow you to read before falling asleep, and is there if you need it on a gloomy day. Whatever you choose, make sure that it will give off the right amount of light for your needs.

There are three types of lighting to consider for your nightstand:


Lamps are the most common choice for nightstands. A substantial fixture can ground your vignette while adding style, color, and texture to the bedroom, especially if you opt for minimal other decor. They can, however, take up a large amount of space.

The size of the lamp must be in scale with the bed, nightstand, and decor it is displayed with. 
  • As a general rule, lamps that are about 1/3 the width of the nightstand and about 1/3 to 2/5 the height of the nightstand will look the best.

  • Look for ones that are about 28 to 32 inches tall. Ideally, when you are sitting up in bed, the bottom of the shade should be around your chin level.

  • Aim for bigger lights as lamps that are too small will always look more out of place than ones that are too large.


Sconces are great if you want to free up space on the top of your nightstand and adjustable options allow you to bring light closer when you need it to read. There are hardwired and plug-in options, although remember you will be seeing the cord in the latter choice.

Also, the type of sconce you choose affects the amount of light it will emit. Some options are better accent lights than reading lights.

  • When hanging a sconce over a nightstand, it should be mounted so the light hangs just above shoulder height when sitting up in bed and is close enough to turn on without getting out of bed. With a traditional height bed, this will be around 60" from the floor.

  • In most cases, the sconce should be centered with the bedside table, although some adjustable options may need to be mounted off-center so that the lamp itself hangs in the right spot.

  • If you choose a sconce or hanging pendant, add something more substantial to the vignette below it like a large vase or piece of art to balance the display.


Hanging pendants are a more modern, unexpected look that also allow your nightstand to have extra space.  While there are a few options for plug-in pendants, this option likely requires an electrician to install junction boxes in the ceiling, adding to the cost of your lighting choice.

  • Try to hang pendants so the light is about 28 to 32 inches above the top of your nightstand to allow room for decorative objects below and adequate illumination when sitting in bed.

Black nightstand with lamp and vase

Look for Hidden Storage

Chris Loves Julia @chrislovesjulia

You may have objects you need at your bedside, but don't want them displayed, like the paperback book you're reading or a bottle of your favorite hand lotion. Look for nightstands that include drawers large enough for holding what you want tucked away like this one used by Julia in her master bedroom. The open legs on the bottom keep the space feeling spacious and the pull out shelf at the top provides plenty of space for setting out what you need at night. 

STEP 3:  Add Art or Mirrors

Framed art, like a large table lamp, can prove to be an ideal focal point in this small vignette adding color, pattern and personality. Your eyes will naturally land on these objects first when you enter the bedroom. Choose prints that have a palette similar to the design of your bedroom.

Art can lean up against the wall, hang several inches above the nightstand, or do both by layering the artwork. When hanging art, aim to have the bottom of the frame about six to eight inches away from the top of the nightstand. It needs to be close enough to visually be part of the display, yet far enough that there is some separation. Be sure that the height where is hangs is either at least a few inches above or below the top of your lampshade.

It will likely look best to slide your table lamp to the left of right of artwork centered over the nightstand so that you can fully appreciate it. And yes, it is fine (preferred, actually) for your lamp to slightly cover part of your artwork. This creates layers that connect the two pieces.  Consider the artwork to be a backdrop filling up the space, adding interest and depth behind your decor and other functional pieces.

In addition to art, consider mirrors or other sculptural wall hangings. Mirrors hung on both sides of the bed adds drama and reflects light, which is especially nice in a dark room. Center the mirror over the nightstand approximately 3 to 4 inches above the top surface. A bedside lamp can either be centered in front of the mirror or pushed to the outer side of the nightstand away from the bed.

STEP 4:  Include Something "Living"

Plants and flowers, whether real or faux, bring a sense of life to a bedroom.  Whether a bouquet of fresh flowers, cut branches, an arrangement of silk greenery or a small succulent garden, this pop of green energizes the vignette. There are even plants like aloe vera or snake plant that improve the air quality in your bedroom while you sleep.

White bedroom with bed and nightstand

Try Nesting Tables in Small Spaces

LuLu and Georgia @luluandgeorgia

When short on space, nesting tables are a great option for an unconventional nightstand. The tallest table can be used for holding your lamp or decor and the shorter option can be pulled out at bedtime providing space for a glass of water, book or place to rest reading glasses for the night.

STEP 5:  Pick Your Decorative Storage Options 

Depending on what you chose as your nightstand necessities, you likely need a place to store them out of sight.  For the things that aren't so pretty, there are ways to either conceal them or enhance their decorative appeal.

  • Many nightstands have built-in storage options like drawers, shelves and cabinets with doors where you can tuck away necessary things when they aren't being used to keep surfaces clear for decorative objects.

  • For furniture that has an open shelf or cubbie, look for decorative baskets or bowls where items can be tucked away.

  • Pretty lidded boxes sitting on the top of a nightstand provide somewhere to store the things you don't want to see like earbuds, lip balm, tissues, lotion, glasses, and other daily essentials. A decorative bowl is helpful for holding jewelry at the end of the day.

  • And don't forget that you can always dress up the things that you need to leave sitting out.  Look for stylish tissue covers for tissue boxes or a beautiful carafe and glass for your nightly water.

STEP 6: Finish With Your Personal Touches

While still keeping in mind the things you actually need on your nightstand, it is time to make it a little more pretty and "you". Fill in where you think you need a little extra something with a framed picture of you and your family, a decorative clock, stack of books, or a memento from your travels. This is where your personality can really shine.

Table with magnolia leaves next to bed

Tables Work When Storage is Not Needed

Amber Interiors @amberinteriors

While nightstands typically have drawers, cupboards, or cubbies for added storage, a pedestal table is a great option for a nightstand if you don't need to tuck things away. Doing what Amber did here is especially useful in a guest bedroom.

How to Coordinate Nightstands on Both Sides of the Bed

For a master bedroom, it is likely you will have a nightstand resting on both sides of the bed.  How do you style them both to meet the needs of the person sleeping on that side, while still coordinating with the nightstand on the other side?

The easiest way for nightstands to look cohesive is to keep the design mainly symmetrical.  Assuming you have the same nightstand on both sides, then you can use two matching lamps or sconces to ground the vignette and hang matching mirrors or similarly sized and designed artwork behind the lighting.  Then do a little balanced styling to each side.

For example, one nightstand may get a small potted plant on a stack of books, while the other side receives a small framed photo and clock.  While not identical, one side should not seem visually more heavy than the other.

Dark painted bedroom

Simple is Fine

Courtney Nye @courtneynye

If you like to keep things uncluttered or lean towards a minimalist look, decorate your nightstand to meet your preferences. Courtney's bedside table is kept simple with just a vase of flowers under a decorative sconce. All other things you might want close-by can be stored inside the drawers below keeping the top of the furniture piece bare.

Six Bonus Styling Tips


The relationship between the objects you choose and how those objects relate to the room as a whole are one way to make a design feel warm and inviting.

  • The individual pieces should not take over the top of the nightstand.  You don't want to choose a lamp that is too large for a small nightstand or to cover the entire piece of furniture with decor and personal items.  Leave a little white space where the eyes can rest. A vignette rarely looks best when every square inch of a space is filled.

  • Also, consider the size of the room and furniture the nightstand rests beside so that the styling neither overwhelms or underwhelms the space.  Expansive rooms that have high ceilings can have vignettes that extend up well past the headboard, while a smaller bedroom needs to have furnishings that are appropriately sized for the space.


Decor styled in groupings of three, five or seven is more appealing to the eyes than when displayed in even numbers. It is the easiest way to make a vignette feel effortless.

  • A small nightstand will likely look best with the minimal three objects while larger nightstands can handle five or seven.

  • Remember, a stack of books or tray filled with individual pieces can count as one object.

Vase of flowers and stack of books on nightstand

Include a Stack of Books for Height

Beth Webb @bethwebb

Books are a useful way to raise up a vase of flowers or decorative object in your nightstand vignette like Beth did here. Find ones with spines that have colors fitting in with your bedroom design or that coordinate with a piece of art you may have hanging behind the beside table.


As is true with any vignette, it is important that the pieces you choose do not all rest at the same height visually. Your lamp will likely be the tallest (unless you have something hanging on the wall behind it). But then you need to vary the heights under that with your boxes, books, greenery, and decor.  You want every piece to rest at a slightly different height.

Consider this layout to get you started in understanding heights and scale:

  • If your lamp is the tallest object, then a vase or framed photo should visually be able to tuck underneath the lampshade in size.  When creating the vignette, focus on having either the entire vase with the flowers end up under the shade or just the vase with the flowers extending up about a third of the lampshade.

  • Then a third object should be about half the size of the vase of flowers or artwork.

  • The top of leaning artwork should reach to either the middle or top third of the lampshade.


Layers move your eye through the vignette creating a well-rounded space and connect the individual pieces together to form one cohesive display. You want decor to be in front and behind each other.

Use stacked books to raise individual decorative pieces to add height and bring attention. If the lamp you choose is too short, set it on a stack of books.

Start by placing the tallest piece, likely your art or light fixture, and ending with the smallest.  Layer one piece in front of another.


A mix of textures leads to an enticing display and is one of the most important concepts to focus on.

How boring it would be for a lamp with wood base to be sitting on a wood nightstand?  The eye loves contrast, so a vignette with a gray textured lamp and woven basket sitting on the same wood nightstand would be seen as more interesting. When gathering accessories, try to choose items that have a variety of textures.


If you've got a lot of small things to display or if your nightstand is feeling too cluttered, a tray can make it all look more intentional.  Gather multiple objects together with a tray underneath and decoratively it will now read as one piece bringing order to the chaos.

Wood nightstand next to bed

Baskets Provide Hidden Storage

M Starre Design @mstarrevdesign

When drawer or cupboard space is not enough for hiding away what you need next to your bed, include lidded boxes or baskets. Emily tucked a few baskets underneath the open nightstand, almost doubling the amount of available storage space and adding a contrast of texture to the wood and dark decor.

For more inspiration from talented designers and bloggers, check out this board filled with over 100 different ways to style your nightstand.

Keep in mind that this process and tips are all rules of thumb that may or may not work in your individual situation.  Each are guidelines to give you a starting point for pulling your bedside look together using items you already have on hand.

Your nightstand should be more than just a dumping ground for your jewelry, phone charger, and pile of magazines. It can visually shine while serving a functional purpose.

CONTINUE READING THESE POSTS IF YOU'RE INTERESTED IN THE STYLING SECRETS SERIES: A collection of posts teaching you the basics of decorating your home.

How to Hang Art Correctly

Everything You Must Know About Mixing Throw Pillows

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