DIY • 9+ Ways to Use a Tray

Often under-rated and over-looked, the tray is one of the handiest household items around. It unites form and function because it keeps things organized in a way that blends in with the decor of a room.

Large or small, a tray can accommodate any personal style preference as it can be found in an almost endless variety of materials, including ceramic, acrylic, metal, wood, basket, plastic, etc.

This post kickstarts your own ideas for decorating with trays by listing 9 places to use a tray around the house.

1 • In the entryway   •   To corral keys, sunglasses, and other sundries upon arrival.


2 • By the desk   •   For keeping within reach handy items like flash drives, paper clips, sticky notes, and other office essentials. Or for making ready items like a pad of paper, pens, and coasters.



3 • In the bathroom   •   Space permitting, keep cotton balls, swabs, containers, and other smalls in order on the countertop by the sink. Grouping these items on a tray makes for easy clean-up since moving the entire tray is quicker than moving each individual item. Setting loose jewelry on a tray also adds another layer of protection for preventing earrings, etc., from accidentally being knocked down the drain or onto the floor.

Another good use of a tray or small basket in a bathroom is on the tank surface of the toilet, a convenient place for storing toilet paper, baby wipes, and other bathroom essentials.


4 • On a coffee table   •   To keep from cluttering up a coffee table with all those remotes and coasters and magazines and what-have-you. Makes items easy to locate, easy to move, and easy to clean up.

Pictured here is a vintage wooden soda crate repurposed for just this function. Popular trends currently include galvanized metal trays in both oval and rectangular shapes, painted wood trays, and small tobacco baskets.


5 • On a dresser   •   Helpful for keeping things organized and, just maybe, preserving the finish on antique pieces.


6 • By the bed   •   On a nightstand or a nearby stool or pouf for all those items you don’t want to get back up for. On the floor, a tray can be easily slipped under the bed or nightstand, keeping items within arm’s reach when needed but out of sight when not.

7 • On a shelf   •   When a shelf needs to work hard, look good, and save space, do not discount the tray. Its slim profile and decorative design gives it go-to status for shelf organization.


8 • On the mantel   •   Large vertical pieces usually steal the show for mantel displays, but a tray can be a smart, affordable way to bridge the gap between decorative elements on the horizontal plane. Here are some creative ideas for using a tray as part of mantelscape:

Find a tray that highlights one of the colors already at work in the room’s color scheme.

Fill with decorative balls, potpourri, faux florals or succulents, or vase filler as a twist on a traditional vertical flower arrangement.

Prop up the tray using a picture or plate stand.

Display a collection of interesting items, like ceramics, mint julep cups, books, or, oh, anything. Arranging items on a tray makes a collection look more intentional and curated than does lining a bunch of things along the ledge of the mantel. Edit your collected display with the whole mantelscape in mind.

9   •   In the kitchen   •   Perhaps the natural home for a tray, this item can be used in a variety of ways in a home’s command center. Just a few are listed here:

On the kitchen table for decorative elements such as holiday decor or for everyday essentials like napkins.

On the counter for produce or overflow take-out items like disposable silverware, napkin rolls, and sauce packets.

In a cabinet for organizing spices, medicines, small jars, table linens, or other like items that tend to be used together or moved around a lot to get to other things in the cabinet.

Above the cabinetry for storing extra items out of sight but easily retrieved. Many cabinets have molding at the top that actually prevents visibility of stored items from the ground level, especially if the items are small or shallow, like votive holders, jelly jars, paper plates, casserole carriers, and even other trays!






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