Having a nightstand beside your bed is handy, giving you someplace convenient to leave your phone, glasses, alarm clock, the book you’re reading or concealed carry pistol, whichever you prefer. But modern homes don’t always leave enough room for a nightstand and not all nightstands are made to fit in the narrow space that those bedrooms have available, especially if you have a large bed in the room.
The answer, of course, is to make your own nightstand. While you can make pretty much any style you want, copying anything you can find online or in a catalog, many of us want something simpler and easier to make. Fortunately, modern furniture styles favor simple designs, which means that we can make a simple, ultra modern nightstand and everyone will think that we’ve got the latest thing, rather than something that we threw together in an afternoon.
The secret here is to make plywood boxes. The original purpose for plywood has been lost in ancient history and probably has something to do with building construction. But I’m sure that it wasn’t long before it started being used for making boxes and furniture. Plywood is such a convenient, useful material for both these purpose, saving us the trouble of laminating boards together to form a wide enough plank for the side of a box or carcase.
There are a wide variety of plywood products which will work well for making nightstands. Applewood, hardwood plywood, cabinet grade plywood, and sanded plywood are all popular types for making simple furniture like this. Your biggest concerns are a good surface finish and a structurally sound core. Even a plywood with a composite core will provide this, as long as it has a nice veneer finish.
Pretty much all plywood will have a “face” side and a “back” side. You want to be sure you identify these on the plywood you choose for your project and always assemble the pieces so that the face side is showing. This will mean:
- The face side is up for the top and bottom
- The face side will normally be to the inside for the sides, as the outside will be up against the wall or the bed. However, if it is visible, than place the face side to the outside
A plywood box consists of nothing more than six pieces of plywood, cut and attached together. For this purposes, we’re going to make open boxes, leaving the front side off. You can use one box or multiple boxes, stacking them together. The overall size should end up being 12” deep, about 26” high and as wide as the space you have available.
The assembly of these boxes is about as simple as you can get. As you can see in the drawing below, you want to make the top and bottom of each box full-width, with the sides inset into them. This will provide you with a smooth top and hide the seams in the best way possible.
Depending on how much work you want to go through, you can either inset the pack panel into the box, by cutting a rabbet into the edge of the wood or you can simply tack it onto the back. Considering that the edges of the top and bottom piece will be visible anyway, giving the nightstand a somewhat rustic look, there’s nothing wrong with tacking the back on, with the edges exposed, and continuing with the rustic look. Whatever you do, don’t leave this piece out, as it is essential for giving the nightstand rigidity.
To assemble the box, first cut and sand all the pieces, paying special attention to the edges. While you are going to have your edges visible, you don’t want them to be rough, or they will tend to catch on your clothing. So plan on spending some time sanding the edges, starting out with a coarse sandpaper and working your way through finer grades.
The boxes can either be glued and nailed or glued and screwed together. If you have an air finish nailer, that would be the best, providing good holding power, while the glue dries. Once dried, the glue will be the main element holding the box together. Properly glued and nailed, you shouldn’t have to use clamps for gluing.
You can use just about any finish technique you can think of, to match your existing furniture. The type of finish you intend to use will have a lot to do with the type of plywood you choose, so that’s actually your starting point. Choose plywood that will work well for the finish that you want.
If you are going for a rustic sort of look, a picked pine finish can go very well with this sort of furniture. To do pickled pine, start with white or off-white latex paint. Water it down about 30 percent, missing thoroughly. Then, brush it on the wood and then wipe it off with rags or paper towels, just like you would do for staining wood. Once the “pickling” has had time to dry, you can finish it with a couple of coats of varnish, sanding lightly between them.
Options for Your Nightstands
There are a number of different options you can use, with this basic design, to give more personality to your nightstand or make it match the look that you want for your bedroom. You might even choose to use a combination of these methods.
Floating nightstands have an ultra-modern, futuristic sort of look to them, and are incredibly easy to do with this design. All you need to do is make the box and support it temporarily where you want to put it, ensuring that you have it level. Then find the studs in the wall behind the nightstand. Two studs is ideal, but if you can only find one, it will be sufficient.
To attach the nightstand to the wall, drill and screw through the back panel of the nightstand, through the drywall and into the studs in the wall. Drywall screws will work for this. You need to use at least two screws, so if you can only find one stud, stagger place one screw close to the top and one close to the bottom. As long as you don’t try sitting on the nightstand, it will be strong enough. Paint the screw heads to match the inside of your nightstand.
The major home improvement centers stock a few different styles of pre-made legs for furniture; usually in the same aisle that the architectural moldings is in. Four of these, which match your other furniture, will give your nightstand a much different look and help it fit in with the rest of your furniture.
One of the easiest ways of customizing your nightstand and make it more interesting is to have multiple compartments. This can most easily be accomplished by making a number of different boxes, using the same backboard for them all. This gives the effect of there being a stack of wood boxes there, even though they are all connected together.
In the design on the left, a single box was used in the center part, rather than the two boxes in the one on the right. To make this work, the backplate must be notched in on the sides where this single box is, so that it isn’t apparent that it is one solid piece. The one on the right, has a slightly smaller box on the bottom, allowing the space for a toe kick, such as you would install on kitchen and bath cabinets.
The toe kick is nothing more than a frame, made of 3” wide strips and then attached to the bottom of the cabinet. In this case it is mostly decorative; but in the kitchen, it keeps you from kicking the bottom of the cabinet while working at the counter.
Drawers can be added, as desired. One of the easiest ways of adding a fake drawer is to look for square or rectangular baskets that might fit into one of the areas. You can often find these with fabric liners already installed. If not, it’s easy to add a fabric liner.
The other easy option for drawers, while keeping with the simple, rustic design of the nightstand is to just make boxes that fit into one of the compartments, leaving about one-eighth of an inch of extra space, both horizontally and vertically. In this way, you can avoid having to install drawer rails and losing the space that those take up. To make the drawer slide smoother, furniture glides can be installed in the bottom and sides of the cubbyholes. The trick here is to find thin ones, so you don’t lose much space.
There are several options for drawer pulls. The obvious one is to buy drawer and cabinet pulls and install them. Other options include cutting a round finger hole in the middle of the drawer front, to be used as a pull. You can also cut a dip in the top edge of the box on the front side, so that your fingers can be inserted to pull the drawer out.