The Difference Between Nightstands and Bedside Tables


Everyone can agree that having a surface to place things on next to one’s bed is a must. Books, reading glasses, pens, notebooks, and other small items need a place to rest as you settle down for the night. Most people put one table or nightstand on each side of the bed, but if you are single, one surface is sufficient.

Most people think of “nightstands” and “bedside tables” as interchangeable, but in reality, there are some distinct differences. Which you choose depends on your unique needs and what you will use the surface for while in bed. Here are the differences between the two.

Overall Dimensions and Available Surfaces

White nightstand

As a general rule, bedside tables are much smaller than nightstands. A nightstand with drawers will be about the same height as the mattress, while a bedside table can be shorter. Accent tables also have a slimmer profile, which can be very helpful if you are decorating a smaller bedroom.

As for actual surface space, bedside tables will be more important for those who don’t need additional drawer storage. Bedside tables usually have at least one additional shelf, but nightstands can sometimes offer additional shelves as well.

Functionality and Features


How do you plan to utilize your bedside surface? Most people place a small lamp on each bedside, leaving ample space for a cup of water, a pair of glasses, a book, a pad, a pen, or other items used while winding down for the night. Both nightstands and bedside tables suit this purpose.

But you may need your bedside table to do much more for your bedroom storage. You have a lot of options when it comes to bedside tables and nightstands. Here are the most common:

  • Bedside tables with one or two additional shelves for more space
  • Corner bedside tables that take up less space in smaller bedrooms
  • Nightstands with one drawer and one shelf
  • Nightstands with one drawer and one cabinet with one or two shelves
  • Nightstands with two drawers

You might also consider other features that you need in a nightstand. If you typically charge your devices at your bedside while you sleep, you might consider nightstands that incorporate tech features. These can include cord management tools or built-in charging compartments.

If you primarily hang your clothing and need drawer space only for your intimates and night clothes, a nightstand with two to three drawers can be highly beneficial.


Wooden bedside table

The bedside surface option you choose won’t be horribly expensive regardless of the option you choose. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when looking for affordable bedroom furniture. Since bedside tables are smaller and require fewer materials, they are often cheaper than nightstands. Nightstands with fewer features or only one drawer are also relatively inexpensive.


The best online stores carry only high quality furniture, but that doesn’t mean it is invincible. Bedside tables are slimmer, smaller, and very lightweight. It makes them easy to move around, but not very durable. These small tables can last for years, but they won’t stand up well to abuse. As such, they really aren’t appropriate for children’s rooms.

On the other hand, nightstands with drawers are very solid. Cheaply made drawers can be easily repaired and/or reinforced, allowing nightstands of any quality to last through decades of use.

Design Aesthetics

Nightstands often have a more traditional look. They come with drawers and closed storage options, adding to their bulkier appearance. These pieces are usually designed to match bedroom sets, contributing to a cohesive look.

On the other hand, bedside tables tend to have a more minimalistic and modern design. They often feature open shelving or simple tabletops. This makes them lighter and less obtrusive in a room, ideal for a more contemporary or eclectic style.

Placement Flexibility

Bedside table with shelves

Nightstands are generally placed directly next to the bed, usually on both sides. Their design complements the bed and other furniture in a symmetrical layout, enhancing the room’s overall balance and order.

In contrast, bedside tables offer more flexibility in placement. They can be used not just next to the bed but also in other areas of the room. This versatility makes them a good choice for small spaces or rooms where you want to avoid a cluttered look.

Style Versatility

Nightstands are often part of a matched bedroom set. This makes them a great choice if you prefer a coordinated look. They are designed to complement other furniture pieces, contributing to a harmonious design theme.

Bedside tables come in a variety of styles and finishes, making them versatile in different décor settings. They can be mixed and matched with other furniture pieces, allowing for more creativity and personal expression in your bedroom design.

Weight and Mobility

Pink bedside table

Nightstands are usually heavier and more solid. This makes them stable and durable but also harder to move around. Once placed, they are likely to stay in the same spot for a long time.

Bedside tables, being lighter and more compact, are easier to move. This mobility is useful if you like to rearrange your room often or need to make space temporarily. Their lighter build allows for more flexibility in room design.

Interesting Facts About Nightstands and Bedside Tables

Nightstands and bedside tables are essential furniture pieces in many bedrooms that offer both style and functionality. Here are some intriguing facts about these versatile items that you might not know.

  • Historical Roots: Nightstands date back to the 17th century, originally used to hold chamber pots before the advent of indoor plumbing. They evolved in design and purpose over time.
  • Variety in Design: Bedside tables come in many styles, from rustic to ultra-modern. This variety allows them to fit into almost any décor theme, making them a popular choice for homeowners.
  • Cultural Differences: In some cultures, nightstands are considered an essential part of a bedroom set, often sold as part of a matching suite. In other regions, mixing and matching different styles is more common.
  • Multifunctional Use: Nightstands are not just for bedrooms. They can be used as end tables in living rooms or as small storage units in hallways and home offices.
  • Customization Options: Many furniture makers offer customizable nightstands and bedside tables. You can choose the materials, finishes, and hardware to match your personal style and home décor.
  • Eco-Friendly Choices: There is a growing trend towards eco-friendly furniture. Nightstands and bedside tables made from reclaimed wood or sustainable materials are becoming more popular.
  • Tech Integration: Some modern nightstands come with built-in charging stations and smart features. These innovations cater to the increasing demand for tech-friendly furniture solutions.
  • Artistic Designs: Designers often use bedside tables as a canvas for artistic expression. Unique shapes, vibrant colors, and unusual materials make these pieces stand out in a room.
  • Space Savers: For small bedrooms, wall-mounted bedside tables offer a great solution. They provide essential surface space without taking up floor area, making them ideal for tight spaces.
  • Health Benefits: Keeping a nightstand or bedside table organized can contribute to better sleep. A clutter-free surface helps create a calming environment, promoting relaxation and restful sleep.

Understanding these facts can give you a deeper appreciation for nightstands and bedside tables, highlighting their practicality and the role they play in enhancing home décor.


In conclusion, choosing between a nightstand and a bedside table comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of your bedroom. Nightstands offer traditional aesthetics and ample storage, making them ideal for those who value organization and a coordinated look.

Bedside tables, with their modern design and flexibility, cater to those who prioritize accessibility and versatility. Understanding these differences helps you select the right piece to enhance both the functionality and style of your space.

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