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Upcycling the Old: 15 Awesome DIY Decorative Trays

When it comes to making vintage inspired DIY projects, we have a soft spot for things that upcycle house wares that were once extremely popular but simply aren’t as common anymore. Even if the piece is just bought and just altered, rather than being genuinely vintage, we love the way things like trays look totally 50s kitschy since people don’t often have them in their homes as commonly as they did a number of years ago. That’s why we’re always on the lookout for new ways to alter even the simplest plastic or wooden trays, upcycling them in a variety of ways so we can use them for décor, serving a loved one breakfast in bed, or getting old fashioned and bringing a guest a cup of tea in style.

Just in case you’re as strangely enamoured with the concept of pretty DIY trays as we are, here are 15 of the neatest designs we’ve come across in our crafting and upcycling adventures so far!

1. Crochet covered tea tray


Do most of your crafting and DIY skills usually lie in the area of yarn crafting, so you love getting unconventional with how you incorporate things like crochet into your other crafting projects? In that case, we have a feeling this crochet tea tray liner idea will be right up your alley! Check out this pretty lace crochet pattern from Craftionary! We like this one because the finished product looks quite intricate even though the pattern isn’t very complicated. You can also adjust the dimensions to fit better inside whatever size of tray you’re using if the default is a little too big or too small.

2. Wine cork tray


Does anyone who knows you well know that you’re a total wine enthusiast? Then perhaps this wine cork idea is the perfect one for you! 21 Rosemary Lane suggests saving up your wine corks for a few months, cutting them in half so you have a flat side to glue down, and gluing them along the surface of the tray all across, from one edge to the other. We love the way they glued a length of similarly coloured hemp string between each column of corks to fill in spaces that will unsettle anything you set on the tray, evening the surface out a little bit.

3. Wooden piece mosaic tray


If you’re going to get crafty in a really hands-on kind of way, do you always lean towards mosaic inspired crafts because you like that it feels like you’re solving a riddle or doing a puzzle? Well, even if you’re aiming for a more rustic or natural looking effect, mosaic skills are great to have because you can use them to fit wood pieces together, just like Style Me Pretty did here. We love the way they not only arranged their pieces in a chevron inspired shape, but also reinforced that pattern by painting a few lines their favourite colour.

4. Stenciled tray with bold sides


When it comes to pattern making, we’ll admit that we can get more than a little bit picky about dimensions, consistency, and evenness. We just want to make sure things are neat and proper looking if we’re going to put all that effort in! That’s why we think stenciling is such a great DIY skill to learn. We love the way Craftionary gave this tray a simple facelift by not only stenciling a pattern across the surface of the tray, but also by choosing a bright contrasting colour to paint the outer sides.

5. Painted geometric tray


Are you feeling kind of torn between the awesome shapes that the mosaic technique we showed you above will give you and the idea of painting your tray because you’ve always loved freehand painting and using bright colours? Well, who said you have to choose between the two? We love the way Designing, Dining, and Diapers mimicked a mosaic pattern by painting all kinds of geometric shapes slotted together but also got creative with their painting by making each shape a different bright colour.

6. Colourful ceramic tile tray


Maybe you actually do plan on using the tray you’re altering to do things like serve tea, so you’d like the crafty facelift you give it to be solid for setting things on and easy to clean? In that case, perhaps you’d prefer to use this colourful ceramic tile idea outlined on Design Sponge! It’s like you’re serving your guests tea on a little piece of your kitchen counter; stylish but durable in case of spills while it’s being carried.

7. Bold tray from a recycled cardboard box


Is your interest in making or customizing a tray mostly decorative rather than practical, so you don’t need it to be very solid or calm? In that case, perhaps this upcycled cardboard box lid idea will do you just fine! We love the way Lili Koi Joy used a box lid as the base but added lots of style and personality by carefully covering the whole thing in boldly patterned material. You could also use wrapping paper or wallpaper if you have that at hand instead of fabric in a colour or pattern you really like.

8. DIY tea tray from yard sticks


If you’re going to make something that hearkens back to more vintage times, would you prefer to preserve that quirky, old fashioned quality in it rather than making it look too bright or modern? In that case, we think this upcycled classroom yard stick idea might be a little more up your alley! Check out how Craftionary cut their yard sticks into pieces and fit them together snuggly and smoothly all across the surface of their tray.

9. Tray made from a picture frame with handles


Have you actually been scrolling through our list hoping to find a way to make a decorative tray yourself, rather than just altering or upcycling one? In that case, we have a feeling this tray made from a couple cupboard handles and a sizeable picture frame might be just the design for you! Ashley Anne shows you how to make one just like this, filled with patterned fabric or bright scrapbooking paper under the glass for some design and personality. We like the idea of being able to swap what’s inside out as our space changes.

10. Fabric decoupage tray


Speaking of fabric and trays in one place, have you ever tried fabric decoupage? Regardless of what we’re making, we enjoy fabric decoupage so much that we’ll take almost any chance at all to use those skills. DIY trays are no exception! Check out how Yummy Mummy Club jazzed their plain plastic tray up a little bit by decoupaging brightly coloured and boldly patterned fabric all across the top.

11. Bottle cap mosaic tray


Were you pretty intrigued by the wine cork idea we showed you earlier on our list but you’ve never been much of a wine drinker and you’d actually prefer a beer if you were given the choice? Then try saving up your bottle tops instead! We love the mod, kitschy look of this glass bottle top mosaic tray from Sweet Something Design, particularly because you could paint the tops in any colour combination you please.

12. Metallic silver and painted flower silhouette tray


Have you been thinking about how much you enjoy the neat and evenness of stencils ever since we mentioned them above, but you’re just not sure a repeating pattern is the look you’re going for? Then perhaps you’d rather stencil a shape! We like using stencils to create images because the proportions are always right and the edges usually look much neater. We like the way Design Sponge decided to paint their floral shape black to make it look like a shadow or silhouette.

13. Fancy chalkboard tray


Have you always preferred to be minimalist with your colour schemes? Perhaps you actually just love the idea of making something that you can still alter at whim when you’re done. In either case, black chalkboard paint is about to become your best friend! We love the way The Red Chair painted the surface of their tray with it, letting you write greeting messages to loved ones when you serve them breakfast in bed. We also quite enjoy the stark contrast between their chalkboard element and their purely white edging.

14. Resin covered coin tray


Have you been scrolling through the tray options we’ve shown you so far and loving the idea of fitting pieces together, like we showed you in the bottle tops design, for example, but you’d actually like to be able to use the tray when you’re finished without the things you set on it rocking around and spilling? In that case, we have a feeling you’ll find this resin covered tray tutorial from Being Brook pretty useful! We quite enjoy their penny covered design, but you could apply this resin technique to any number of ideas.

15. Reclaimed wood bed tray


If you’re going to make a tray completely from scratch, would you prefer to make it look kind of rustic chic, or perhaps vintage inspired but stylishly weathered looking? In that case, working with reclaimed wood is a great idea for you! We adore the way Scavenger Chic built this beautifully worn looking wooden tray from an old shallow drawer, some ornate looking metal drawer handles, and the shortened legs or an old side table. By adding the legs, you make it so you can actually eat breakfast of the tray while you’re still in bed!