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The History of Nightstands

Nightstands started off as small cabinets with one or more doors on the front. They were used to store chamber pots before the era of indoor plumbing. They were often referred to as “commodes” and were typically made to follow French styles. In fact, by the mid-18th century, cabinet makers were using the term “commode” to refer to a chest with a gracefully curved front and (occasionally) shaped sides. Sometimes these were larger pieces of furniture that included shelves, while in other cases they were simple cabinets featuring an interior storage space covered by one or more doors. When indoor plumbing became more widespread, the need to store a chamber pot disappeared. Once the items that needed to be stored in these cabinets changed from clunky chamber pots to pieces of clothing and knick-knacks, drawers replaced the cabinet-style doors, and commodes effectively morphed into the nightstands that we are familiar with today. In modern times, the term “commode” is rarely used to refer to a nightstand and is instead used to refer to a toilet. Despite their strange history, nightstands continue to be a key item in most modern bedrooms, and antique units, some of which may be referred to as “commodes,” are often sought after by décor enthusiasts.

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