How to Pick the Perfect Nightstand and Lamp


Today I want to share a little “trick” I use when faced with any new design problem – I call it the S-A-S-S-Y design solution!

S (size) – A (aesthetic) – S (space) – S (scale) – Y (why?)

By considering each of these design elements in turn you will always end up making the most practical and tailored choice. Let’s take a look at an example (and learn some design “rules”) by applying this simple approach to today’s problem – how to select the correct nightstand and lamp for your bedside?



When you sit up in bed, the bottom of the lamp shade should be between your shoulder height and your eye level, so the light shines on your lap and not into your eyes. Start by looking for a nightstand that’s within 2″ inches above or below the top of your dressed bed. A popular option is for your nightstand to line up with the top of your dressed bed. I say, ‘dressed bed’ not mattress since bedding can add several inches to the height of your mattress. Once you have selected your nightstand, to make sure the light is at the correct height, look for a bedside lamp 27″ high to complement nightstand that are up to 2″ higher than your bed top and 32″ high to complement nightstand that are up to 2″ lower.

how to pick the perfect-nightstand-&-lamp


The days of matching bedroom sets are long gone, however symmetry is still a popular and elegant choice. For example, a wooden bed with mirrored nightstands works well. If you choose to give your nightstands their own personalities, perhaps a more feminine piece on one side and masculine on the other, be careful of different nightstand heights. You might want to adjust your lamps to keep the top of their lampshades in line, so when veiwing from the bottom the the bed the composition looks balanced. This could be achieved by using different height lamps, or placing the matching lamp on the lower side on a book or two.


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Decide how much space you need, but remember to make sure you can easily reach all your bedside essentials, particularly your lamp switch, you don’t want to wake yourself up fully trying to turn it off. Your phone or alarm clock should also be within arm’s reach. Placing the lamp closest to the bed and pushing it back against the wall will make room for other necessities and ensure that the arc of light is appropriate for reading in bed. If space is limited, consider using a wall mounted, floor or pendant light in place of a traditional bedside lamp.


Scale your nightstand to the size of your bed frame. Your nightstand should be in direct proportion to your bed in terms of width. You want the nightstand to complement the bed, not overpower it or feel too small. As a rule of thumb, look for a nightstand that is at least 1/3 the width of your bed, but no more than 2/3. Likewise, your bedside lamp should be in direct proportion to your nightstand in terms of width. Look for a lamp that is approx. 1/3 the width (measured at the widest point of the lamp, usually the base of lampshade) of your night stand.



When making any design decision the first question you should ask yourself is why? Whether it is evaluating a full reno or just buying a piece of furniture, you need to ask yourself ‘Why do I want this?’ In the case of a bedside table your answer to the question might be multi-fold – to have somewhere to put my alarm clock, to ensure I have good light for reading at night, to store all my magazines out of sight or to place a picture of a loved one close by. Whatever the reason, knowing what you want (and by that I mean what fits your unique life) will allow you to narrow down the options and make the best choice for you and your space.

Photo Credits: The fabulous Lonny Magazine 

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4 Responses to “{SASSY design} perfect bedside manners”

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve bought matching bedside lamps for my new house which are fairly high and dramatic. Problem is, I’m using a nightstand at one side of the bed and a chest of drawers at the other, so the lamps are at totally different heights. At the moment I have the lower lamp based on about 5 books but wondered if you had any better ideas/ways to make it look more creative?


    • hi lucie, I have been thinking about this… a couple of options that might work depending on the type of lamp base… you could add a block of perspex or acrylic below the lamp to act as a platform (an on trend solution)… you could add a small box under the lamp instead of the books (assuming you don’t plan to access too frequently and it is wide and deep enough to support the lamp in a stable fashion). or you could cheat and add “feet” to the nightstand to bring it up a little. or apply a combination of the 2!sometimes you can increase the size of the harp (the bit the lamp fixes to) which will make the top of the lampshade appear higher, but make sure the lampshade would still cover the knob part of the lamp when viewed from the end of the bed so it is not too obvious. a lamp store could look at your light and see if this would work. let me know what you do..

  2. Janet Sullivan says:

    great article. My question is, do the bedside lamps have to match? I found 2 lamps totally different but same height. I like them both. Should I narrow it down to the one I like best? Thanks! Janet Sullivan

    • this is a great question, janet… my “rules”… if you have two different nightstands on either side of the bed you should use a pair of matching lamps to tie the look together. otherwise, combining mismatched table lamps on matching nightstands, or even mixing a standing lamp with a table lamp (or chandelier) can show off your style and add some interest to your room. if the tops of your lamps line up, and you love them they should work from a design point of view. enjoy!

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