I am an Anglophile at heart, and love the comforting, layered bedside tables often seen in British home magazines. To me, there’s something inherently Southern about them—the sense of welcome; the belief that a very tiny piece of home real estate can still offer a promise of sanctuary and cater to all five senses. A tiny spot that meets many needs: for beauty, for something wonderful to read or sip, for paper to jot down a thought or a note, for a little sprig that smells delightful.
As for myself, I like to start with round nightstands. Why? Because opposites attract in the world of design, and since most beds are square or rectangular, a spherical shape softens the tableau. Also, I find that the surface offers just the right amount of space for the things I love to have near me, especially my giant cup of brushes, pencils, and pens—I do my best creative thinking early in the morning, while curled up with coffee.
Beyond my corner of the world, I asked a few Southern interior designers with different aesthetics for their wisdom on the subject. Charleston, South Carolina’s Angie Hranowsky, who dreamed up the beautiful space above, says her approach changes with every project. “I think a nightstand is a very personal item,” she explains, “and every client is different. Some want a lot of drawers, some just need one drawer, and some don’t need any. In my house, I have no drawers, and only have a lamp, my eye mask, a pair of reading glasses, and my stack of books. But many people like to keep drawers full of anything from hand lotion, jewelry, magazines, you name it. Good lighting is also a must, and it needs to be soft but bright enough to read by.”
Hranowsky also likes to add small dishes and boxes in which clients can put, say, a pair of earrings they forgot to take off before bed. To bring a bit of history and character to the space, she also favors vintage and antique items, including family photos in eye-catching frames.
Meg Lonergan, in Austin, Texas, likes to throw out the rulebook for the traditional boudoir setup and instead go bold with details like hanging pendants in lieu of lamps, as seen in the project below. “It creates so much more space,” she says.
Lonergan’s other nightstand staples? A creative tray, such as the leaf platter below, to create visual interest, and the more storage the better, like this stacked nightstand would afford you.
The Atlanta designer Jared Hughes takes a different tack: “I always think of great Southern ladies who ‘take to the bed’ at times, then I imagine things they would need. I love gorgeous lamps that make sense height-wise. Short lamps on bedside tables light the table and the floor, but do not cast light onto the bed where you need it.” He also suggests investing in a great candle that wafts scent even when unlit, a carafe for water (or wine!), and a vase of flowers. “It is always nice to see something from nature when you wake up and right before you go to sleep.”
Hughes offers a bit of wisdom about scale, too: “I like nightstands to be around six to eight inches away from the edge of the bed,” he says. “You need to be able to access the table to get water, or put down a book. I have physically moved them in hotels before!”
For Atlanta’s Mallory Mathison, it’s all about combining the right materials. “I love to mix up the finish on a nightstand,” she says, “so if the bed is stained wood, then a painted or mirrored nightstand, and vice versa.”
“With an upholstered headboard,” she continues, “I might go with a stained nightstand.” She also advises choosing a nightstand that’s about an inch (or up to four inches) above the mattress, but not lower.
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