Tips for a Clutter-Free Bedroom Nightstand

All bedrooms could use more storage, which makes nightstands key. But how do you keep them clutter-free? Designers share their top tips for keeping nighttime necessities at hand without turning the bedside table into a catchall.

Photo By: Photography by Holly Polgreen

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Photo By: Photography by Michelle Rasmussen

Photo By: Photography by Michelle Rasmussen

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Photo By: Photography by John Ellis

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Photo By: Photography by Michelle Rasmussen

Opt for Clear Shelves

For a bright, open look, consider nightstands that don't steal visual space. One trendy option: bedside tables with a mirrored finish that bounces light around the room. Or follow the lead of the designers at Carlyn & Co. and surround the bed with a pair of glass shelves. "They create a light and airy feeling yet provide storage for all your nighttime needs like a reading lamp, books, a clock and glasses — all in one neat and organized spot."

Get a Leg Up

In a small bedroom, a diminutive (but storage-rich) nightstand is best. Choose a piece with feet to create the impression of more open floor space. As you arrange your essentials on the nightstand, designer Holly A. Kopman suggests considering the necessities — "Always have a spot to put a glass of water" — as well as the serenity of the space. "I try to encourage people not to keep too many things plugged in by the bed, because it can interrupt your sleep," she says. "Instead, consider displaying a small but meaningful piece of art."

Stash It in Plain Sight

Any designer will tell you that selecting a nightstand with interior storage is the best way to keep the top clear of clutter. But if you fall in love with a bedside table that doesn't have as much stowaway space as you need, "use decorative storage boxes to keep small items organized," says designer Linda McDougal. "And there are certain things you should always plan to keep on top of the nightstand: a lamp, a coaster for a glass of water and a couple of books."

Build In Functionality

For a sleek, modern vibe, choose a headboard with integrated bedside tables. This one was custom-constructed with good looks that conceal a smart secret. "Both of the cantilevered wood pieces are actually drawers," says architect William Hefner. "So it's easy to sweep the clutter into the drawer quickly when you need to clean up. Often we will place the telephone for the room in one of the drawers, as well."

Be Tray Chic

Here's an instant organizing trick: Use a serving tray to keep small items neatly corralled on a tabletop. This works everywhere, from kitchen counters to coffee tables, but it's an especially useful tactic on the bedside table, which often ends up littered with everything from glasses to emery boards. "I love using a variety of trays — lacquered, ceramic, silver — on my bedside tables. They keep odds and ends looking neat and add a pop of color," says blogger Michelle Hinckley of 4 Men 1 Lady. Her rule: "If something doesn't fit on the tray, it doesn't belong."

Bring the Office Home

As you shop for bedroom storage, it's a good idea to think beyond traditional nightstands. "Office furniture often provides the best storage, for almost any room," says designer Kenneth Brown, who used a vintage Knoll cabinet here. "I like cabinets instead of chests of drawers," he adds. "They're easy to open and access, and you can stack things inside because they have a big, open interior."

Just the Basics

In a small guest bedroom, a wall-mounted bedside table can offer just enough space to hold a lamp and a clock without dominating the tight square footage. For a bedroom that's shared by two, "pick an adjustable lamp with variable levels of light," says Michelle Hinckley, "so one person can read without disturbing the other."

Consider Going Custom

Sometimes, it's hard to find the perfect nightstand for your needs. Designers often have furniture custom-made, as Jodie Rosen did to create this sleek nightstand with storage-rich, deep drawers. "I wanted to anchor the white headboard and tie in with wood elements in the room," she says. "This nightstand works proportionally with the space, especially the oversized lamp that adds a ton of drama to the bedroom. The hardware is stainless steel and chunky, and creates a minimalist effect without being wimpy."

Good Design Is a Balancing Act

Customize your bedroom storage by selecting nightstands individually, instead of automatically choosing a matched pair, says designer Diego A. Rincon of Diego Alejandro Design. "And, consider options that aren't necessarily designed to be used as nightstands. Here, I used a simple, clean nightstand from Tema Home on the right, but on the left, I used a pair of taller stacking tables. The stacking tables, traditionally used next to a sofa, give the space a feeling of openness that wouldn't be achieved with another set of drawers."

To Each Their Own

Of course you want your nightstands to look great, but it's also important to consider how the furnishings will be used — and by whom. "We always try to select nightstands asymmetrically, with each nightstand reflecting the personality and storage needs of the user," says Craig Schultz of Laidlaw Schultz Architects. "This gives us an opportunity to create a composition that is unique and modern, all while being reflective of the people we are working with." Image courtesy of John Ellis Photography

Pull Off a Disappearing Act

Make the bed the star of the show by choosing nightstands in the same color as the walls. They'll seem to "disappear," making the accessories on top of the bedside table stand out — giving you more incentive to keep this area neat and tidy. More advice from designer Tom Stringer: "Use contrast to develop interest in a bedside vignette. Here, the bed, chest and charming vintage chair are all painted in contrasting colors. In my opinion, nightstands should never match the tone of the bed that they accompany."

Traditional and Timeless

Dark-stained furnishings may not be the current belles of the design ball, but sometimes a traditional dresser beside the bed is as aesthetically pleasing as it is storage-efficient. Says designer Dana Wolter, "In this bedroom, I chose Mitchell Gold pieces beside the bed, because with so many light fabrics and bleached woods, I needed the balance of a dark wood for the space. Also, height, the proportion, and the straight lines of the tables worked well with the other furnishings."

From: Dana Wolter

Scale Is Key

Remember to take into account the proportion of both your space and your bed when choosing bedside storage pieces. For a wide room with a low platform bed, for example, you might be best served by a low, wide nightstand that can hold more than just the bare necessities. "This wider nightstand can easily accommodate a large digital music player," notes designer Diego A. Rincon.

Mix It Up

Take some time to think about your storage personality. Do you prefer closed storage — drawers or cabinets — or open shelves, or a combination of the two? This bedroom features both open and closed storage, and mixes materials too. "The unexpected combination of the smooth white wood and the rawness of the natural wood is beautiful and unique," says designer Diego A. Rincon. "The open area below the drawer keeps books, magazines or tablets handy, while the drawer provides the always-important privacy every nightstand should have."

Make Room for Guests

"A guest room can end up as the dumping ground for all the clutter we can't fit anywhere else," says blogger Michelle Hinckley of "Make sure when a guest comes to stay that you clear out the contents of bedside drawers and dressers so guests have space to put their things. Also, clean linens and towels, a new bar of soap (no one wants to use someone else's dirty soap), a carafe or a couple bottles of water for the evening, etc. A new spare toothbrush, a hairdryer and extra toiletries are always nice in case they forget something of their own. You want them to feel just as welcome and comfortable in your home as they would feel at their own homes."