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The night stand is evolving for technology

By Penelope Green
New York Times

More Information

  • Blue light in the bedroom

    • Seventy-two percent of respondents in a 2011 study reported that they were taking their phones to bed with them, according to the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation; 49 percent said they took a computer or tablet and 13 percent an e-reader.

    • Ninety percent of the 18-to-29-year-olds in a 2010 Pew Research poll slept with their cellphones next to the bed.

    • It appears these devices are augmenting all sorts of bedroom behaviors. “We know that looking at your phone is the new smoking after sex,” reads a recent caption in a bedroom decor feature in GQ magazine.



Consider the bedside table, a modest domestic surface that offers as concise a portrait of human aspirations, anxieties and appetites as one could hope for in 2013. It’s a mess.

In the last half-decade, new technologies have roiled this already-crowded space.

Designers and manufacturers are puzzling over how to mediate the mess.

The dilemma is figuring out how to make a set of four-legged bedside bookends look cool and sleek enough that people will want them and practical enough to prop up the range of items that now must be always within reach.

“It’s like that new airplane,” said movie set, hotel and home designer Robin Standefer, referring to the Boeing Dreamliner and the bedside table. “It has all these electronics, all these functions, and it’s getting bigger and bigger.

“I have a complicated relationship with the bedside table,” she added. “I want it to be something that’s somewhat serene. I want to look up from the pillow and not see a display from Radio Shack.”

What’s on it?

The iPad and the Kindle, the iPhone and the BlackBerry. And don’t forget the Invisalign night-grinding guards and the sleep apnea masks.

And what about the meds, the Ambien and the Viagra? Or earplugs? Late-night worriers need a place to put a pad of paper and a pen.

Decorators struggle with order in this area, in part because they prefer to flank a bed with drawer-free tables instead of actual night stands.

“I want to see legs, not something boxy,” Standefer said.

But that affinity, “leaves the conundrum of how do you hide the electronics?” said Celerie Kemble, a Manhattan designer.

To corral all this stuff, Kemble has used silver trays, antique tea caddies or boxes, small chests and even desks with surge protectors fitted into the drawers.

For significant equipment issues, she suggested, “How about a skirted table and a big tray you can whisk everything onto and slide underneath?”

Some take a different approach. Clutter busters like Leslie McKee, a professional organizer in Pittsburgh, advocates for simplicity.

“We can bring in a basket for the electronics, drill a hole through the back of a chest for cords, but anything that sends a message of too much to do, you don’t want nudging you in that space,” she said.

She believes bringing order to the bedside table is a matter of being realistic about the enormous gap between what you think you can do and what you’re getting done.

“I ask people, ‘What did your grandmother have next to her bed?’ ” she said. “A little doily, a photograph, something that made her happy. Think about what your grandmother did – and get some sleep.”

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