Bedside tables – they’re often overlooked due to their functional nature, small stature, and commonly overshadowed situation flanking the much larger and more commanding furniture piece that is a bed. And yet, no bedroom is complete without them.
Try removing your bedside table (and its contents) for a night; you’ll notice the room is dingier for lack of a lamp or reading light, your essentials are out of reach, you have nowhere to stash your jewellery or watch (if you remove these to sleep), and you’ll wake up parched for want of a glass of water to hand. The only benefit you’ll find is that, with your alarm clock or phone on the other side of the room, you may well get up and about earlier from having to venture out of bed to turn it off.
Bedside tables, also known as nightstands, night tables, or bedside cabinets, have been a mainstay of bedroom layouts for hundreds of years. Originally, before the invention of sophisticated indoor plumbing, they contained a chamber pot and a system for it to be hidden and revealed for use by way of a drawer or door. In this case, they were referred to as commodes. Contemporary bedside tables sometimes feature little storage at all and are increasingly shifting to become a sculptural mainstay in bedroom interior design, rather than serving a functional purpose.
A close cousin of end tables and occasional tables, they are typically square or round in shape, and feature drawers, shelves, or cupboards for storage. They will commonly reach a height of around 50cm as a general rule, however a bedside table with a tabletop at or slightly above the height of the top of the bed’s mattress– or the person’s head height while laying down– tends to be the most functional and easy to use. This dimension can vary based on the age of the bed’s occupant, the height of the bed frame, and the physical constraints of the individual, among other factors. A bedside table lower than this height can easily have its contents disrupted during sleep by rogue bedding falling out of place, which can lead to a plethora of household hazards (risk of water damage to electrical equipment– if you make a habit of having a glass of water to hand as well as charging cables, etc– and possibly fire damage if there are lit candles).
Out & Out’s range of bedside tables link functionality with flawless design and high-quality finish.
The materiality of these small but mighty pieces is largely dictated by the room they will be situated in. A lighter finished piece, perhaps in white or light-shaded timber, helps to elevate a bedroom which gets less natural light, or a bedroom which is small and largely dominated spatially by the bed itself. The Savannah white side table encapsulates this tone perfectly.
Alternatively, a very bright or large bedroom tends to benefit from the grounding presence provided by darker furniture, especially when dark tones flank either side of the bed. Darker-finished furniture is largely underrated in the 21st century, as light furniture has taken the stylistic helm in recent years, however it certainly has its merits; aside from a palpable grounding effect, it is also easier to maintain and often ages better as the darker shade makes it more difficult to see wear and tear. The Button chest of drawers is a brilliant example of this finish, but a piece that combines multiple tones and textures– like the Aspen oak side table– is also a good option.
The mainstay aesthetic feature of all of our bedside tables is their being raised up off the ground. The key benefit of this raising up of the piece is that it allows for a spatial void beneath, which frees up the often tight and dark spaces either side of the bed. It also brings in the legs as a design feature in and of themselves, which can add textural and compositional dimension to the table. Our Aspen oak side table features tall, chunky hairpin legs connected directly to the base, whereas the Phoenix white bedside table, which has straight-down cylindrical legs, is combined with a frame that cradles the main storage unit for a unique silhouette.
Bedside tables benefit from being relatively unadorned and simple in their design; in contrast with the occasional tables of the previous centuries found in the palaces and country piles of the wealthy and affluent, which were often inlaid with precious metals and other rare and sought-after finishes. In modern times, functionality becomes decoration, which is why the hardware and opening mechanisms are so important to consider when in the market for bedside tables. Streamlined, minimal bars like those present on the Aspen oak side tables are a quintessentially modernist choice, as are the voided hook-holes used to open the Phoenix table’s drawers, which complement the void beneath the piece. In contrast the overblown, exaggerated button handles present in the design of the Button oak chest of drawers creates a feature of an often-overlooked furniture archetype.
The storage opportunities presented by the piece must also be considered. A shelf, such as those present on the Nova and Dakota white side tables, allows the display of select items– as well as their easy access– but risks becoming cluttered and untidy and obscuring the design of the table. A door or drawer in that case is the least visually disruptive, maintaining a clean profile and having ample space to store any night-time essentials, while simultaneously having plenty of space to place items on top. The Aspen table with door is perfect if you prefer internal shelves, and the Phoenix and Button tables feature two drawers of ample space. A piece which combines a shelf and alternative storage is the most adaptable, and can be moved into other living spaces if required for optimum versatility.