10 essential budget-friendly serving and decorative trays
Since we believe that trays are amazing, we put together our top 10 essential trays for your home — all at an affordable price! (Most are under $20, with a few $25 “splurges” 🙂 Pottery Barn is beautiful, but my budget definitely prefers Target (and saving money doesn’t have to LOOK cheap, either, thank you!). Plus, Target is doing free shipping until Christmas, so take advantage of that!
Check out our favorites to buy, and then to DIY below
1. A durable basic tray. I know we’re talking a lot about trays being decorative, but we’re looking for the perfect combination of pretty + purpose, right? An inexpensive melamine tray does the job for serving drinks, corralling items, and even makes a great portable play station for the kiddos, around the house or in the car. You can find large plastic trays for under $10 a piece! Target carries this one in red, black, and white, or get a similar one here in a light teal/aqua. Basic inexpensive painted wood trays like this are a great beginning, too (or build your own with the tutorials below).
2. A deep tray. A tray with some depth (2-4″) is perfect for holding magazines, picture books, mail, or other odds and ends, keeping it organized but out of sight. We like this woven basket-tray, and this deep wood tray could hold so many things! This bright metal tray isn’t quite as deep, but it would still do the job.
3. A bath tray. This one and this one are specifically sized to fit the back of the toilet, on top of the tank — brilliant for making good use of limited space in a small bathroom! A small bath tray can hold soap and bathroom essentials to clear up the vanity top — and who says that just because it’s a bath tray it has to be used in the bathroom?
4. A small tray. Whether it’s for your bathroom, or on your nightstand or entry table, a small jewelry tray is perfect for those odds and ends. This plaid pattern is great for adding some fun, or this acrylic and wood piece adds a little neutral class!
5. A patterned tray. A thin tray with a pretty pattern like this one gives a little style to a serving table (or even the everyday dinner table!) and is also perfect for turning upright to serve as a backdrop to a vignette on an end table or buffet.
6. A wood or woven tray. It’s a classic! A stained wood tray adds so much to a vignette. I love the handles on this one, or you can buy an unfinished wood tray here or here to stain exactly as you’d like (or use my favorite colorwashign technique, because color is fun!) A woven basket adds some wonderful texture — I like this round one. A wood slice platter (with or without handles) or round tray is also great for decorating and party serving.
7. A clear plastic/acrylic tray. When you need a tray that organizes without really being seen — acrylic is your friend! This clear plastic serving tray from Target and this one with handles have the designer look with a much lower price tag. This round acrylic tray is a great addition, too.
8. A ceramic tray. In addition to decorating, a ceramic or stoneware tray is perfect for cookies and other entertaining treats. I’m always a fan of white dishes, but I do love the fun color of this one. A pretty ceramic tray is also a great decorative piece to layer as a backdrop to an arrangement on a table, console, or hutch.
9. A geometric tray. A tray in a fun geometric shape is on-trend and adds some nice variety to a layout. The additional inlay in this wood tray adds an extra punch! (See below for some more great wood trays that you can DIY.)
10. A breakfast tray. A standing tray with legs is great for adding height to a buffet setup (hot chocolate bar, anyone?) and of course, it’s perfect for breakfast in bed! This espresso color looks great, but you can also get tall serving trays in a variety of wood or painted finishes.
BONUS: Metallic trays. Since mixed metals are in right now, add a metal or metallic tray to your lineup for an extra bit of panache! This stamped metal tray would be perfect for a mantel display, and this copper tray is so lovely, I want it on my bedside table! And if your style leans a little more rustic, try galvanized metal. (And the wood tray in the center is here, so versatile!) And can you believe this beauty at Liz Marie Blog (pictured below) is actually meant to be for BOOTS?