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How to Build a DIY Nightstand

This Old House DIY expert and House One editor Jenn Largesse shares how to put together a sturdy bedside table using a simplified joinery technique.

This article appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of This Old House Magazine. Click here to learn how to subscribe.

The do-it-yourself projects that jump to the top of my list always seem to be the ones that add more function to our home. If a build promises to put wasted space to good use or bring organization to a cluttered area, I find myself feeling extra inspired.

PREP STEPS. Jenn uses a miter saw to cut the night table’s 2×2 legs, as well as its 1×2 crosspieces. A table saw is handy for cutting the sides and shelf, but a circular saw with a guide works, too.
Mock Tuna

So when I noticed charger cords, books, and miscellaneous items accumulating on my bedside table, I decided it was time to make something that would provide more storage than I currently have. And while drawers are not typically considered an easy build, the pocket-hole assembly method I used offers a great solution for novices.

Thanks to its generous footprint, two stacked drawers, and bottom shelf, my nightstand feels neat and tidy when it comes time to turn out the light. Up ahead: what you need to know to build one of your own.

Getting Started

Illustration of how to build a nightstand Peter Sucheski

The standard height for a nightstand generally ranges from 24 to 28 inches. While modern furniture design favors low-slung side tables, I like a traditional nightstand to sit 1 to 2 inches higher than the top of the mattress.

For alongside my own bed, I designed this side table to be 30 inches tall; that way, the reading lamp casts its light down onto my book, and its switch is within easy reach. To size the nightstand up or down, you can simply adjust the height of the 2×2 legs, while maintaining the distance of the bottom shelf to the floor.



Cut list

  • 2x2 legs – 4 @ 29 1/2 inches L
  • 1x2 crosspieces – 4 @ 12 inches L
  • 1x2 crosspieces – 4 @ 20 inches L
  • plywood sides – 2 @ 3/4” x 12”W x 12 1/2”L
  • plywood top – 1 @ 3/4” x 24 1/2”W x 15 3/4”L
  • plywood shelf – 1 @ 3/4” x 20”W x 12” L
  • plywood drawer sides – 4 @ 3/4” x 4”H x 13 1/4”W
  • plywood drawer-box fronts and backs – 4 @ 3/4” x 4”H x 17 1/2”W
  • plywood drawer bases – 2 @ 3/4” x 17 1/2”W x 11 3/4”D
  • plywood drawer fronts – 2 @ 3/4” x 5 1/4”H x 19 7/8”W

Finished Dimensions: 24 1/2”W x 15 3/4”D x 30”H

Steps for Building a DIY Nightstand

Step 1: Prep the parts

Prepping the parts Mock Tuna

Following the cut list above, cut the pieces to length. Use the pocket-hole jig to drill two holes at the ends of the front and back pieces for the drawers and each 1 ×2.

Drill additional pocket holes along all edges of the plywood shelf and each drawer base, and along the top and side edges of the plywood sides.

Step 2: Assemble one plywood side

Assemble one plywood side Mock Tuna

Position a 12-inch 1×2 between two 2×2 legs, 12½ inches down from the tops of the legs. Attach it with glue and pocket-hole screws. Place a plywood side on top of the 1 ×2, its bottom edges flush and its top edge supported; secure with glue and pocket-hole screws.

Step 3: Attach a 1×2 crosspiece

Attach a 1x2 crosspiece Mock Tuna

Mark a line 5 inches from the bottom of each leg. Place a 12-inch 1×2 between the legs, propped up on 3/4-inch blocks and flush with the legs’ inside faces. Using the bar clamp, secure it with glue and pocket-hole screws. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 for the second side.

Step 4: Install the shelf

Install the shelf Mock Tuna

Glue and pocket-hole-screw 20-inch 1×2s to the front and back edges of the ply-wood shelf, flush with its top. (The plywood will cover one of the two pocket-screw holes at each end.) With a side assembly lying flat, inside face up, glue and pocket-hole-screw the shelf flush with the top edge of one of the lower 1×2s. Flip the workpiece over, and repeat on the other side. Glue and pocket-hole-screw two 20-inch 1 ×2 crosspieces between the sides, flush with the upper 1 ×2s.

Step 5: Attach the top

Attach the top Mock Tuna

Place the workpiece upside down on the plywood top, centered along the top’s width and flush with its back edge. Drive pocket-hole screws through the plywood panels and into the top. Iron on veneer tape to finish the edges; trim excess.

Step 6: Assemble the drawer boxes

Assemble the drawer boxes Mock Tuna

Glue and pockethole-screw a plywood front and back to a drawer bottom so they are flush with its underside; glue and pocket-hole-screw the drawer sides to the bottom, front, and back. Repeat. Sand both assemblies smooth, and paint all the pieces.

Install the drawers & add drawer fronts and pulls Mock Tuna

Step 7: Install the drawers

Separate the slides and screw one part to each drawer box, centered vertically and flush with the front edge. Attach the correspond - ing parts inside the workpiece. Insert the drawers, rejoining the two parts of each slide.

Step 8: Add drawer fronts and pulls

Mark and drill holes for the pulls in the applied drawer fronts, then tack them to the drawer fronts with screws through the pull holes. From inside the drawers, drive screws through the drawer fronts and into the applied fronts. Remove the temporary screws, drill holes through the drawer boxes, and screw on the pulls.