Until very recently, I never gave much thought to the clunky foldout trays I inherited from my grandmother. While they have a certain…nostalgic charm….there are far better options. I believe we’re long past due for some portable options. Not just portable, but stylish and unique as well. Trays are just made to be recycled, upcycled, and are the perfect DIY activity.
Whether you find something cheap at the thrift store or an inexpensive wooden tray from Michael’s, you’re looking at a blank canvas. As with most of the projects I explore, these are all affordable, and most quite simple to make.
I’ve rounded up 25 of my favorite ideas for you to try.
25 of My Favorite DIY Serving Tray Ideas
Upcycled Picture Frame Serving Tray
How does this blogger get in on the Thrift Store Decor Upcycle Challenge?! Stacy of Anastasia Vintage nailed the challenge with the repurposed picture frame sprayed with Rustoleum. She used a nifty trick with petroleum jelly to achieve that chipped texture you see in the finished product– I never would have known that tip if not for her.
Next, she added handles [available at your local hardware store] and placed a graphic over the glass. Stacy also suggests securing a piece of hardwood to the back of the frame to keep everything together, which is a wise move.
From: Anastasia Vintage
Watermelon DIY Serving Trays For Summer
I think these adorable watermelon trays are perfect for an outdoor summer picnic. At first glance, I assumed it would be a ‘paint and go’ type of job, but it turns out there’s a little more to it. Luckily, the folks at Crafts Unleashed offer clear instructions with photos, making it a breeze to follow their lead.
From: Consumer Crafts
DIY Farmhouse Style Serving Tray
Brittany, a.k.a. Pretty Handy Girl, makes me want to step up my game. Her bio brought a smile to my face and I definitely want to explore her site further. But I digress. A guest blogger offers her recipe for a farmhouse style tray.
I’ll be the first to admit– the ingredient list was intimidating. Over a dozen ingredients, including a drill and a circular saw?! Yikes. This one is not for the faint of heart. However, I will give major kudos for the super-specific instructions.
From: Pretty Handy Girl
DIY Sharpie Guest Book Serving Tray
This would be a fine time to mention that unfinished wooden serving trays– which will be used throughout these ideas– are available at Michael’s. Martha Stewart Crafts [also available at Michael’s] has a decoupage glue in a gloss finish. Coat the tray and unleash the colored Sharpies so everyone can leave their autograph.
I would love to do this as a way to commemorate a special event. Optional: Martha Stewart Crafts glitter can be used around the edges of the tray, but it does get messy, so be sure to place newspaper under your work surface.
From: Something Turquoise
Recycled Wine Cork Tray
Brilliant idea! It’s never difficult to find surplus wine corks in this house, so it’s a pleasure to put them to good use. Cut the corks in half length-wise and glue to the tray of your choice. 21 Rosemary Lane also makes the keen observation that the corks naturally provide a non-stick surface and absorb any condensation.
From: 21 Rosemary Lane
Wooden Piece Mosaic Tray
These remind me of a decorative tray in the sunroom at my parent’s home. I can literally see the two picture frames and candy dish that sits atop it. I definitely want to give this a try so I can recreate it for my own house. Whenever I do make this attempt, I will have my work cut out for me.
Style Me Pretty walks you through it step-by-step but the process does look to be labor-intensive. Painting, staining, cutting, patterns….whew! Don’t skip the part about laying a heavy book on top of each section as it dries as this will keep the strips lying flat.
From: Style Me Pretty
Painted Geometric Tray
Grab a trusty wooden tray and some blue artist’s tape. Use the illustration provided by Taryn Whiteaker to guide you as to tape placement. Alternate color blocks with the acrylic paints of your choosing. Once the paint is completely dry [it will probably take 2-3 coats], peel off the tape and seal with varnish.
From: Taryn Whiteaker
Colorful Ceramic Tile Tray
I’ve always dreamed of a DIY bathroom renovation, which would include tiling the floor. Making this tray would enable me to try out my skills on a much smaller surface to really get a feel for it.
The prospect of playing with grout excites me. It was nice to see there were very clear instructions about the grout [use the non-sanded kind and mix to the consistency of a thick milkshake], which should be applied liberally, then forced between the tiles with a putty knife.
Wipe residue with a warm washcloth and let dry for 72 hours, misting periodically with water to prevent cracking of the grout. Once I accomplish all this, I’ll be well on my way to my own HGTV show! Thanks, Design Sponge, for planting the seed.
From: Design Sponge
DIY Tea Tray From Yard Sticks
There’s just something about those old wooden yardsticks that appeals to me in a decorative sense. Maybe they remind me of childhood measurements and tracking my growth progression with pencil marks on the door frame.
Tape measures are so dull by comparison. Once again, I digress. Measure an assortment of yardsticks to fit the tray, cut, and glue. Bonus points for the fact that Craftionary has links to loads of different wooden yardstick DIY crafts in addition to their tray idea.
Tray Made From Picture Frame With Handles
Crafting ingenuity at its finest. Ashley, from Under the Sycamore, used a wooden picture frame as the base of her tray. Because she has glass on both sides of the frame, that gives her the freedom to change out the inside whenever she wants.
She personalized her tray with a vintage kitchen towel and recipe card from her recently deceased grandmother. Not only do I love the fact that she made such a unique tribute, but I love the fact that she has options. This completely do-able project is now on my to-do list.
From: Ashley Ann Photography
Fabric Decoupage Tray
The bright chevron pattern immediately gives off a retro vibe. Such vintage charm only intensifies by using a cookie sheet as opposed to a wooden tray. I remember eating in front of the television on trays like this when I was a little girl. All it takes is chevron fabric, coating the cookie sheet with spray adhesive, and gluing the edges around the back of the tray.
From: Yummy Mummy Club
Metallic Silver and Painted Flower Silhouette Tray
Although the finished product looks chic and elegant, the ingredient list gave me pause. Getting glass cut to fit a tray isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, but it’s not something I would do frequently. I also questioned how an X-acto knife and unflavored gelatin fit into the equation.
Thanks to the excellent photos accompanying the instructions, my questions were answered. Steps 7-10 [involving the gelatin] are a bit intimidating, but again, the pictures make the process clear.
From: Design Sponge
Fancy Chalkboard Tray
Chalkboard paint is something I’ve always wanted to play with yet have never had the opportunity to do so. I think it’s about that time. The Red Chair Blog says that any tray will do for this project; however, it is important to use a foam brush for applying the paint as the bristles on a regular brush can leave bubbles.
From: The Red Chair
Resin Covered Coin Tray
Find a penny, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck! Technically you can’t pick up these pennies, but you can let Abe Lincoln jazz up your tray. There’s more to this project than initially meets the eye, but Being Brook guides us along every step of the way.
First and foremost, wash your pennies with soap and water. As they are drying, prime the tray. Arrange the pennies on the tray and mix the EnviroTex Lite. EnviroTex was foreign to me, but it’s basically a resin coating.
It’s crucial to lay a container over the tray while it is drying so dust particles don’t taint your masterpiece. Though it will be dry to the touch by morning, it needs a few days to cure completely.
From: Being Brook
Reclaimed Wood Bed Tray
I see this tray and visions of being served breakfast in bed dance through my mind. It’s just that type of tray. Yet upon looking at the instructions, I began to wonder if I’d be skipping breakfast altogether.
There’s a lot of sanding and cutting and drilling. Simplicity is key for me and this seems like complicated manual labor. Perhaps I can find a dashing carpenter to make this for me…and then bring me brunch?
From: Scavenger Chic
Considering these trays combine to form a makeshift backgammon board, I should not be surprised that there is some work involved with this one. Rebecca, of Infarrantly Creative, has far more equipment on hand than I. We’re looking at another one of those dozen-ingredient lists, so there’s a lot to this.
I also feel like some of her instructions could be broken down a bit further for clarification. Overall, the end result is a fine DIY game, but I would definitely feel more comfortable making this with a crafting partner whose skills surpass mine.
From: Infarrantly Creative
Immediately I connected with a blog called “Addicted to DIY.” That I am. Take a trusty wooden tray and spray paint it the color of your choosing. Layout the bottle tops as the hot glue gun warms.
Chances are, you might have to grab some tin snips [I didn’t know what this tool was called but I actually have one in the garage!] and cut a little bit off of the bottom row of bottles as they won’t fit as a whole.
From: Addicted 2 DIY
Chalk Paint Menu Board
I know I already included a chalkboard tray, but hear me out with this– as there’s a unique twist with this idea. Artsy Chicks Rule inspired me to repurpose an old metal tray as a sophisticated menu board. Something about having a menu board in my home makes me feel like I’m actually an adult with a game plan.
The instructions were straightforward and I marveled at the finished product. It looks like something that comes from a designer boutique and costs beaucoup bucks. There will be a menu board in our kitchen in the very near future.
From: Artsy Chicks Rule
Oh, how I wish I stumbled upon this while my kiddos were still into Legos. I love the way Amber, from Busy Creating Memories, also lists the multitude of benefits that come from playing with Legos.
For a craft that looks like it would be rather complicated, I was pleasantly surprised by the simplicity of the ingredient list and the instructions. The fact that it’s portable makes it even more awesome. As a parent, it’s really special when a staple of your child’s playtime is something you created yourself.
From: Busy Creating Memories
Being the Southerner that I am, the blog title “Eleven Magnolia Lane” caught my eye. My curiosity was further piqued when I discovered the monogram motif. Monogrammed items look classy and elegant, no matter the context.
Use a brightly colored or patterned piece of contact paper fitted to a wooden tray. As for the monogram, the site offers customizable monograms you could order, or consider stenciling your own.
From: 11 Magnolia Lane
A stunning piece like this requires effort, so I was not surprised that it involved some serious [wo]manpower. Breaking things with hammers, epoxy, and….a blow torch? Gulp.
This one might be a little over my pay grade but if you’re willing to follow through the instructions are fantastic and written with clarity and a hearty dose of humor. It’s obvious that Nick and Bethany, of Reality Daydream, are a great husband/wife team who love working together on creative projects.
From: Reality Daydream
Despite the fact that there were photos and directions for this craft, I found it a bit odd that there was no ingredient list. I like to know ahead of time exactly what I’ll need, and I prefer it in a concise list before the first instruction. Christy chose to use three French trays she’d acquired, yet you can also use wooden trays.
She painted the trays with white paint, which is fine, but I personally prefer cream-colored paint with the black painted stenciling. Her blog is called “Confessions of a Serial DIYer,” it brought a smile to my face because it fuses two of my passions: DIY and true crime. But that’s an article for a different day….
I do get a little apprehensive when the first sentence is “First of all, don’t be scared of this project…,” yet I’m willing to approach it with an open mind. This was another craft without an ingredient list, but it involves painting, decoupage, and epoxy.
What I liked best about this project from The Country Cottage were the pictures. Honestly, I felt as though I could make the tray from start to finish without any written instructions, relying solely on the photos. That’s quite impressive.
From: The Country Chic Cottage
Upcycled Shopping Bag & Washi Tape Serving Tray
We are all about reusable bags in this house. Last week though, I was particularly bummed when the handle on one of my favorite bags completely busted after a grocery trip. Thanks to this craft, I can repurpose that bag. Mod podge, washi tape, and a wooden tray are the only things I need to breathe new life into my bag.
From: Infarrantly Creative
Thrift Store Tray Makeover
The possibilities here are truly endless. Any thrift store tray find will work, yet in this particular case a large, oval tray was used. Paint the tray the color of your choosing. If you are so inclined, add a graphic [make one on the computer or use stencils] and use contact paper to apply. Voila! Brand new item, at your service.
My Own Personal Serving Tray Upcycle Project
Ever since I bought a house my parents and grandparents have gotten in the habit of giving me boxes of junk every time I see them, and because I’m such a hoarder only about half of it makes it into the donation pile.
In the most recent box, was this rooster serving tray which was in good structural condition but completely not my style and a little banged up:
I gave it a few thin coats of Zinsser 1-2-3 spray primer, then a few very thin coats of Rustoleum’s Lagoon spray in satin:
Once all the paint was dry, and cured for a few days, I taped off the sides and painted the bottom (which was tile) with leftover white paint + primer from when I painted my bathroom tile. It took about 4 coats because I did it so carefully and because the Lagoon color kept seeping through.
But then I thought it could use a little something-something more so I got out my Silhouette Cameo and played around with fonts until I found some that worked really well together for my quote:
I printed the quote with Oracle vinyl and used transfer paper to get it on straight and level, then I painted 2 coats of polycrylic on top to seal it in (make sure it’s polycrylic and not polyAcrylic so it doesn’t yellow over time!)
What do you think? I think it’s such a fun addition to my bar and a great little inside joke.
Want to Check Out More Cool Projects?
My Silhouette Challenge friends and I are all sharing projects on our blogs today, so check out the projects below for a wealth of Silhouette inspiration!
1. Just a Girl and Her Blog // 2. The Frill of Life // 3. A Time For Seasons // 4. The Thinking Closet // 5. Ginger Snap Crafts // 6. Simply Kelly Designs // 7. Please Excuse My Craftermath… // 8. My Paper Craze // 9. Mama Sonshine // 10. Practically Functional // 11. Adventures in All Things Food // 12. Two Purple Couches // 13. Dragonfly & Lily Pads // 14. Sowdering About // 15. Cutesy Crafts // / 16. Pitter and Glink // 17. Dream a Little Bigger // 18. TitiCrafty // 19. unOriginal Mom // 20. Persia Lou // 21. Silhouette School // 22. Creative Ramblings // 23. My Mom Made That