written by:
January 4, 2010
Originally published in Make It New!
as
Night Shift

Once a locker for a midnight loo, the bedside table has taken on a far sweeter function—and a score of forms for holding big dreams, and small specs, till the morning light.

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  Photograph by Peter Belanger
    Photograph by Peter Belanger
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  Oslo Side Table by Andrew Moe for Studio Moe, $550
    Oslo Side Table by Andrew Moe for Studio Moe, $550
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  Series 11 Nightstand by Blu Dot, $699
    Series 11 Nightstand by Blu Dot, $699
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  Table 915 by Alvar Aalto for Artek, $1,460
    Table 915 by Alvar Aalto for Artek, $1,460
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  Reve Bedside Table by Niels Bendtsen for Design Within Reach, $850
    Reve Bedside Table by Niels Bendtsen for Design Within Reach, $850
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  Prismatic Table  by Isamu Noguchi for Vitra, $630
    Prismatic Table by Isamu Noguchi for Vitra, $630
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  The Crate by Jasper Morrison for Established & Son, $179
    The Crate by Jasper Morrison for Established & Son, $179
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  The glass-and-polyester Delta table, designed by Barber Osgerby in 2008, from $2,090 at Established & Sons.
    The glass-and-polyester Delta table, designed by Barber Osgerby in 2008, from $2,090 at Established & Sons.
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  The maple-veneer Modulicious Bedside Table, $399, from Blu Dot.
    The maple-veneer Modulicious Bedside Table, $399, from Blu Dot.
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  The Eames Wire-Base Table by Charles and Ray Eames, $179, from Herman Miller.
    The Eames Wire-Base Table by Charles and Ray Eames, $179, from Herman Miller.
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  Corks by Jasper Morrison for Moooi, $356 for low Cork, $347 for high Cork
    Corks by Jasper Morrison for Moooi, $356 for low Cork, $347 for high Cork
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  Blow Up Table by the Campana Brothers for Alessi, $305
    Blow Up Table by the Campana Brothers for Alessi, $305
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  Mandal Nightstand by Francis Cayouette for Ikea, $69.99
    Mandal Nightstand by Francis Cayouette for Ikea, $69.99
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  012 Bedside Table by De La Espada, $995
    012 Bedside Table by De La Espada, $995
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  TaTu Side Table by Stephen Burks for Artecnica, $440
    TaTu Side Table by Stephen Burks for Artecnica, $440
  • 
  The Crate by Jasper Morrison for Established & Son, $179
    The Crate by Jasper Morrison for Established & Son, $179
  • 
  The Eames Wire-Base Table by Charles and Ray Eames, $179, from Herman Miller.
    The Eames Wire-Base Table by Charles and Ray Eames, $179, from Herman Miller.
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  Platner Side Table by Warren Platner for Knoll, $930 for metallic bronze base with bronze glass top
    Platner Side Table by Warren Platner for Knoll, $930 for metallic bronze base with bronze glass top
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  Mandal Nightstand by Francis Cayouette for Ikea, $69.99
    Mandal Nightstand by Francis Cayouette for Ikea, $69.99
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  Rian End Table by Semigood Design, $1,200 for table without lipped edge, $1,325 for table with lipped edge
    Rian End Table by Semigood Design, $1,200 for table without lipped edge, $1,325 for table with lipped edge
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  Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell, $160
    Componibili by Anna Castelli Ferrieri for Kartell, $160
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  Corks by Jasper Morrison for Moooi, $356 for low Cork, $347 for high Cork
    Corks by Jasper Morrison for Moooi, $356 for low Cork, $347 for high Cork
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  Defile Nightstand by Jesse, $1,030
    Defile Nightstand by Jesse, $1,030
  • 
  The maple-veneer Modulicious Bedside Table, $399, from Blu Dot.
    The maple-veneer Modulicious Bedside Table, $399, from Blu Dot.
  • 
  Reve Bedside Table by Niels Bendtsen for Design Within Reach, $850
    Reve Bedside Table by Niels Bendtsen for Design Within Reach, $850
  • 
  Series 11 Nightstand by Blu Dot, $699
    Series 11 Nightstand by Blu Dot, $699
  • 
  The glass-and-polyester Delta table, designed by Barber Osgerby in 2008, from $2,090 at Established & Sons.
    The glass-and-polyester Delta table, designed by Barber Osgerby in 2008, from $2,090 at Established & Sons.
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Photograph by Peter Belanger
Photograph by Peter Belanger

Before the advent of plumbing, a nightstand was more than a repository for bedside treasure. It held something of a quite different nature: a circular chamber pot, nestled behind the doors of what was then referred to as the commode.

We’ve since forgone the ceramic bowl—–and often the cabinet doors and drawers as well—–and today’s bedside tables need only live up to the literal interpretation of their prosaic title. “It could be a desk on one side and a round table on the other,” says interior designer Philip Gorrivan, “just as long as some sort of surfaces flank the bed.”

For Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda, who does half of his reading in bed, the essentials are shelves, drawers, and ample tabletop space. He stocks his nightstand with notebooks, pens, bookmarks, a letter opener, a task lamp, glasses, Altoids, and, of utmost importance, a flask filled with cognac. Despite his analog approach, Dirda easily imagines nightstands equipped with audio inputs that would allow him to plug in earphones and watch a show without waking his wife—–that is, if he watched TV.

Dirda’s futuristic fantasy is not far off: With lamps, laptops, phones, and clocks all requiring regular juicing, bedside tables now need to accommodate clunky cables and cords. “You don’t want your table to look like a mess,” says designer Francis Cayouette, whose Mandal nightstand includes a compartment in the back for power cables and a drawer in the front to store less techy toys. Thankfully, a hole for a bowl is no longer needed.
 

To see more bedside tables, please visit the slideshow.

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