There actually wasn't an urgent need for nightstands, but we wanted to practice woodworking with something "easy". The inspiration came from Ana White's Rustic X End Table, but since we didn't have our new couch yet, and no need for end tables at the time, we decided to make nightstands that fit our small master bedroom. The nightstands we had were hand-me-downs and the style was totally not ours. Plus, we both agreed that having drawers only encourages junk to pile up, so we wanted our nightstands to just have a table top and a bottom shelf without any drawers, so this was perfect.
First thing's first, we measured the space on either side of the bed and considered how much table space we wanted. We wanted it to be 22 inches wide, 16 inches deep and 24 inches tall. Our bed is on the low side, so we wanted the nightstand to be at a good height where if we were laying down, we didn't have to reach down or up for glasses, phones, etc. Then we calculated how much lumber we would need to buy. We already had so many 2 x 4s piled up in our garage from the framing of the walls we removed in our living space so we didn't need to buy any of those, but we needed thin and wide boards for the table top and bottom shelf, and also some 2 x 2s for the X brace on the sides and the apron. Note: Calculate carefully - we ended up having to make another trip to Home Depot because we didn't have enough for two!
For the most part, you can follow the plans on Ana White's website - the diagrams should also be pretty helpful. We actually altered ours for the sizes we needed and didn't add the decorative hardware just for simplicity. And for the X cross brace, we actually made one of the nightstands that has one side of the X long with two smaller pieces for the other side of the X, but found that part to be the most challenging to get just right, so for the second nightstand, we opted to just have two longer 2x2s criss-crossed. Another challenge for us was using a hand-held circular saw instead of a nice stable miter saw. At this point, we were using all borrowed tools and weren't planning on making a lot of furniture so we didn't want to spend a lot of money on tools. If we had known we were going to be making a lot more furniture, we probably would have bought more tools earlier, but oh well. Live and learn!
I should also mention, if you plan on doing a significant amount of woodworking, you may want to invest in a Kreg Jig. Ana White's plans for the end table uses pocket holes, but pocket holes are so great for other things. For example, we used them to add extra support in our framing for our TV wall-mount :)
Dimensions for our version
Table top: Cut 3 pieces of 6" wide material to 22" long. (Join along edges with pocket hole screws.)
Bottom shelf: Cut 2 6" wide material to 13" long.
Legs: Cut 4 pieces of 2 x 4 to 23" long.
Horizontal Front and Back Braces: Cut 4 2 x 2 to 13" long.
Horizontal Side Braces (that frame the X braces): Cut 4 2 x 4 to 11 1/2" long.
X Braces: Ours were 4 2 x 2 pieces cut at approx. 19 7/8" long but you will need to wait until the frame is assembled and then measure at what angle the ends need to be cut at for a precise fit. (Tip: Get the angle right and cut the pieces slightly slightly long and trim as needed until it fits snugly. You can always cut it down but you can never add length back!)