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Before indoor flushing toilets became commonplace, the main function of a nightstand was to contain a chamber pot. As a result, early nightstands were often small cabinets, sometimes fitted with a drawer, and usually containing an enclosed storage space below covered by one or more doors. Another term sometimes given to such cabinets was commode.
Modern nightstands are usually small bedside tables, often with a drawer. They are often used to support items that might be useful during the night, such as a lamp, alarm clock, mobile phone, desktop intercom, reading matter, a glass of water, or medication.
French, Italian and Spanish antique nightstands usually have one drawer and an enclosed storage space with one door. They can be embellished with gold leaf finish, bronze or parquetry inlaid.
The first known use of the word nightstand was in 1892.
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