Decorative trays are versatile and the unsung hero in any room they’re used in. Today I’ll be teaching you why and how to decorate with trays, in almost every room of your home!

decorative tray with a pitcher of feathers and candlesticks on coffee table 


The why is easy, the how, perhaps not so much!  But no worries, today’s article will teach you everything you need to know about why and how to decorate with trays.

Decorating your home should be a very personal thing, and shouldn’t be thought of as a cookie-cutter kind of process.  You may love a room you’ve seen in a magazine spread, but you wouldn’t want to recreate it piece by piece, either.  If you did, the room wouldn’t really be yours, would it?  

Every space in your home should be a reflection of your taste, your favorite colors, and the beloved items collected throughout your lifetime.  

That’s exactly why decorating with trays is such a useful technique to learn.  Having the skill set to create a “still-life” on a tray with some of your favorite mementos or possessions will help take your home decor to the next level of fabulous!


antique mirror breakfast in bed tray

In my post on the BEST BREAKFAST IN BED RECIPES + FABULOUS TRAYS TO EAT THEM ON!  I shared my 7 favorite picks for breakfast trays, some traditional, and a few “out-of-the-box” choices I couldn’t resist including.  I think you’ll love the ones I’ve chosen.  Click the link to read the article now so you can start using decorative trays in all sorts of ways!

The fabulous thing about any decorative tray is it can move right from the bedroom to the living room with equal ease.



This is just one of those truisms in life.  If you have a flat surface, it will get cluttered with stuff.  It happens.  You don’t mean for it to happen, it just seems to evolve into a comfy mess of the things you use on a regular basis.

Here’s what happens at our house: 

Watching television requires 2 different remotes.  Don’t ask me why, it just does.  So that’s 2 items that need to hang around the sofa and coffee table.  Then I always tend to be working on a craft project and reading a magazine or book.  More stuff hanging about.  

how to decorate with traysYou can declutter your space and organize your things by grouping them on a tray.  

And once you understand the theory behind creating a fabulous “still-life” on a tray, you’ll be able to do it with style and panache in every room of your home!


By placing a group of things on a tray, the human brain will more likely digest it as a single element within the space. 

Now the “mess” has been transformed into a cohesive piece, rather than all the individual items on the tray themselves.

Voila, now you’ve got a decorative item instead of a mess!  And you’ll be much more organized too. 


You can make any space in or outside your home ready for entertaining at a moment’s notice when you use a decorative tray.

Obviously, you’ve used serving trays for cocktails and party snacks through the years.  And that’s great.  But if you want to how to decorate with traysentertain with real style and grace, create a tray or two that are already composed and looking like a piece of art!  

This makes hostess duty that much easier and clean up a breeze.  What more can you ask of a hostess hack?


A little later we’ll discuss the actual steps you take in creating a decorative tray display, but right now I want to talk about visual interest.

Every decorative tray should have a variety of shapes and textures that add to the beauty of the room.  This can be done in two different ways.  First, you can start with a tray that has lots of character, texture or color.

And that can mean anything from wood, metals, a woven rattan or even a colorful patterned melamine platter.  Trays come in every color and every material under the sun, and that gives you endless choices that can add visual interest to a room. 

rattan breakfast in bed trayOr, you can use a plain tray and add items that are varied in color, shape and texture to accomplish the same visual interest essential to a successful decorative tray display.

PAINT A STILL LIFE – This is my “theory” of how to decorate your home with trays

I want to you think about this process as if you’re viewing a “still-life” painting in your favorite museum.

What is it about the piece that speaks to you?  Is it the balanced composition that most possess?  Or is it the combination of colors thepicasso still life painting

artist used?  Whatever the reason might be, you just know it”works”. 

That’s because a still life is the depiction of inanimate objects for the sake of their qualities of form, color, texture, and composition. 

You can see in this colorful work by Pablo Picasso that he carefully chose every item and placed each with deliberation to form his final composition.

And that’s exactly what you’ll be doing each time you begin “painting” a decorative tray for your home.  



A Rose By Any Other Name…   So many to choose from, but you should also think “outside-the-box”, LITERALLY!

why to decorate your home with traysAs I mentioned earlier, a decorative tray can come in many forms.  Just like the antique mirror tray above I chose for my breakfast in bed article.

But you also want to consider the scale of the tray with regard to the space it will inhabit.  

Too large a tray can make a space feel crowded, but conversely, too small of a tray will have little to no impact on the space.

So, you’ll want make sure your tray is the right scale and shape for its intended use and placement.

You can see in this image, that the tray is covering almost the entire surface of the table.  It works because the shape mimics the table’s and the composition and colors are simple and make a clear statement.

But, scale is equally important when choosing what items you’ll be using on your tray too.  You’ll want to vary their sizes and scale to create a visually appealing display.

Lots of small items ruin the effect you’re trying to achieve in the first place.  It just ends up looking like more clutter!

Also note the repetition of the gold metals on both the table and tray make a powerful impact on the setting.

The whole point is to choose a tray (or a fab alternative) that brings real style and interest to the room you’re decorating.  Just don’t let the word “tray” define the actual piece you use.  How about using a slab of wood from a tree on your coffee table? Now that’s something that’s a little out-of-the-box! 


why and how to decorate with traysFirst things first.  You want to start with your tallest items.

In this image you see a chunky clear vase is used for tall and textured fresh greenery.  Notice how the room is essentially black and white with a few neutrals thrown in the mix.  The greenery adds a pop of color to the room’s decor.

The display is simple, but utilizes a second tall item, the water bottle, that starts to bring the eye down to the clear glasses.  

Like the room itself, the tray’s composition is rather neutral, but still conveys style and keeps with the room’s “town and country” vibe. 

Simple, elegant, functional and stylish.  


Yes, there seems to be a lot of different things you must consider when choosing the items you want to use in your “still life” painting.  Scale, height, and now texture!

Texture is a loaded word.  It can mean the nubby surface of a fabric pumpkin.  Or the rough and spiny shape of a large pine cone.  Or even a pattern that’s set into the top of a metallic box or bowl.  Texture, there’s a lot of different ways you can go…adding texture to a decorative tray

Here’s one idea that I’ve used over and over again in my homes:  Use branches to add both height and texture to your deco tray’s display.   Boom!  Height, check.  Texture, done! (I especially love to use curly willow!)

In the image shown here, most of the composition’s height comes from the “tray” itself.  What a great way to re-purpose a cake stand or raised platter!  

And now let’s talk texture!  The entire composition is textural and in keeping with the room’s natural colors and rattan furniture.

This finished decorative tray is stunning in its simplicity, yet has tons of impact on the space, exactly because of the textures used.  You can do that too, right?  You bet you can!


The power of “three” is a design concept, that when employed effectively, ensures visual balance and appeal. 

Our brains are set to “see” and interpret items in certain ways, and somehow odd numbers seem to be more appealing.  Many studies have been done on the subject, so just trust me on this one!  We need not know exactly why, we just need to do it!

When you’re trying to decide what pieces to include in your decorative tray, you’ll want to consider exactly how many to include.  Don’t forget what I mentioned earlier, the scale of every item you pick needs to work with the whole “painting”, along with the size of the tray and chosen location.

Hey gals, don’t get intimidated, it may sound complicated and a lot to think about, but it’s also tons of fun too!


why and how to decorate with trays all around your homeFIVE:  UTILIZE “WHITE SPACE” WHEN COMPOSING A DISPLAY

Here’s where your real design skills will be put to the test.

Don’t be tempted to fill up your decorative tray will solid objects.  You want to think about adding an item that has some “open or white space”.

Try to vary your items, some with bulk, other’s that are light and airy.  Just like when painting a canvas, the artist is as much concerned with the spaces she doesn’t put paint as where she does.

White space is a powerful concept that can make or break your tray’s still-life composition.  


Let’s take a look at this image and examine it’s components as it relates to what we’ve talked about so far.  

  • Using the clear bowl vase allows your eye to see through it, thereby expanding the space and allowing light to strike all the surfaces  
  • The neutrality of the colors used intensifies the pop of green in the spiky textured plants in the vase
  • Using a slab of wood as a tray adds a little surprise element, interest and texture to the display
  • The large pine cones in varying heights lend texture, interest and height to the tray
  • Using just three large pieces of almost equal scale provides unity and continuity
  • The chosen items are compatible and “go” together seamlessly



Now that you’re versed in why and how to decorate with trays using my “still-life” painting theory, here’s some places to use them


why and how to decorate with decorative trays


Needless to say, this has been a popular design concept for at least the past decade, and still going strong!  

Notice how just 2 items are used on this tray, not 3?  But why does it still work?

It’s because the over-sized bouquet of blossoms act as the third item, bringing both height and texture to the tray’s composition. Clever, huh?  








where and why to decorate with trays



Here’s the most popular usage of decorative trays around the house.  When learning why and how to decorate with trays, it has to include your coffee table.  

It can become the focal point of the room with a fabulous decorative tray like this one, filled with greenery and supplemental mood lighting.

You can see how the tray can stay in place all year long, with the items being changed out to fit the change of season or holiday.  How fab is that?








where to use decorative trays in your home



Here’s one of the hottest trends in home decor at the moment.  Both farmhouse decor and tiered trays are strong design elements that complement a casual, yet stylish lifestyle.

You can find both two and three tiered decorative trays in almost every style and material you can imagine.  This wooden version looks right at home on a kitchen counter or breakfast bar.

Notice that there are lots of items, but they’re unified by using only simple white pieces with little or no adornment.  The tray is grounded by placing it with the two hanging plaques and textured metallic canisters.

Don’t you just love it?




entryway table with decorative tray



Here’s the spot that can use the most functionality and utility when it comes to a decorative tray.

If you live in a household that can’t keep track of their keys and sunglasses, using a tray can make your life easier and less cluttered.

In this image you can see they actually use two trays on their foyer table, one purely decorative, and the other purely functional.  Works for me!



why to use decorative trays



Here’s an idea I love!  If you’re lucky enough to have a walk-in closet, or utilize a dresser inside your clothes closet, this idea is perfect for you.

Use a decorative tray to corral your jewelry, perfumes and what-not.

It’s a fab way to add a little bling to your mornings when preparing for your day.








why and how to decorate with trays



This is basically the same kind of idea, only it’s out in the open.

So you’ll want to make sure the tray you choose adds style and a fab design element to your sleeping space. 

This tray is actually a DIY project featured in 2BEESINAPOD.com.  It’s a great example of  just how many ways you can transform a simple wooden tray into a real showpiece.  Isn’t is absolutely darling? 

I’m working on some ideas for my own DIY trays at the moment.  My mind is whirling with fab ideas to try!










why and how to use decorative trays



Serving breakfast in bed can be a fabulous way to start a Sunday morning!  Look how pretty you can make just a plain cup of coffee.

Don’t neglect this wonderfully relaxing way to use a tray in a useful and stylish fashion!

Let’s see now, height, texture, color, balance, yes, it’s got it all!








bathroom decorative trays for storage



Isn’t this a clever idea? 

Here’s a trio of great “in-the-box” storage trays that are not only adorable, but provide tons of storage in an area that’s tough to find space.

This is a completely practical way to use box-type trays in a room you might not think to add them to.

Many bathrooms aren’t large enough to add too much style in the form of decoration.  But, these boxes do that especially well when placed on attractive shelving over the toilet.





And if you have a larger bathroom that has plenty of storage and even a piece or two of accent furniture, then you can be purely why and how to decorate with traysdecorative! 

Add some mood and atmosphere with a few well-chosen pieces that make you feel special or evoke a certain feeling you want to recreate.  You’ll always enjoy your time in the bathroom because you’ve surrounded yourself with things that you love.




The dining room table is my favorite place to have a tray that befits the season or an impending holiday celebration.

My one caveat, make sure your tray’s display is light why and how to use decorative traysenough to be moved in order to set the table. 

We’re empty nesters now, so with only two place settings, I can keep my tray in place most of the time.  But if you need to set your table on a regular basis, make life easy for yourself and don’t make a heavy display of fall squash and pumpkins!

Talking about squash and pumpkins….



WHY AND HOW TO DECORATE WITH TRAYS – Don’t Forget Seasonal Displays

Learning why and how to decorate with trays also should include a quick discussion of the seasons and holidays throughout the year.

Adding a touch of the holiday or seasonal spirit is super easy when you use a decorative tray.  Make sure you’re following the guidelines I discussed earlier, but this time, you’ll be using seasonal or holiday items.

Check out this lovely Fall display by Rough Luxe Lifestyle, filled with gourds, persimmon and squash.  It just shouts outfall season three tier tray display “Fall”, doesn’t it?

You can see how the tray’s contents are delicately balanced by shape and color.

Then, the entire tiered tray’s contents are “grounded” by the placement of the large squash snuggled next to the tray.

The corner placement lends height to the sideboard display and provides balance against the large pieces of dining room furniture. 


Next we’ll look at a lovely Spring tray.  It utilizes fresh flowers and potted herbs that can be changed out periodically to keep the display fresh.

Even though there are technically 6 items on the tray, it still works doesn’t it?  Why does it, if it’s breaking one of the rules of why and how to decorate with trays?

Despite the stack of books being counted in the number of pieces, they don’t register in the brain as a separate item.

When used as a “lift”under the pitcher to add height to the composition, they blend seamlessly with the surface of the tray. 

why and how to decorate with trays

How’s that for a little added lesson?


There are so many design tricks and hacks that you can employ when styling your home, and using decorative trays is just one of them. 

Today you’ve learned about why and how to decorate with trays, tomorrow who knows what we’ll talk about!

Make sure you come back to visit Ingredients For A Fabulous Life often, because I’ve got lots more to share with you about decorating your home in your own personal style!


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