Welcome to Chapter 3 of our series that we are titling “Rethink the (fill in the blank here)”. In case you missed our first couple of chapters they were: Rethink the Mirror and Rethink the Hutch. Today we are filling in the blank with “Tray”. Yes, today we are “Rethinking the Tray” and although that may not sound like a headline grabbing concept, stay with me and keep scrolling, this whole tray thing is a good one.
Trays although often overlooked can be one of the most functional and useful items in any room. Yes, you can’t sit on them like you would a couch and yes you can’t cuddle under them late at night like you would with a cozy throw but trays although often underused deserve more than just a supporting role.
If you haven’t been able to tell from the pictures in this post, we are big fans of using trays in all of our reveals and guess what? They can basically be used in every single room of the house and can help corral and keep things organized while being stylish.
But enough about the why and let’s get into the how. Let’s start with the most obvious place for a tray, the coffee table. Coffee tables often become a catchall for just about anything and everything in your living or family room: magazines and books, remotes, candy, flowers, the occasional plate of leftover food. So to help combat that and get you a little bit more organized we have pulled together the combos below. We measured (and measured again) to ensure that everything that you see below will fit on the tray that we have coupled it with.
#1 is basically the setup that I have in my living room and I love it. The tray is large enough to hold some coffee table books and the small planter could be stacked on top with the candle and coasters on the other side of the tray. #2 gives you a little bit of extra storage with that box and also a pretty place for a fresh cut bloom in that bud vase . #3 is for the minimalists that just want a few simple well placed accessories and #4 has a box big enough to hold a few of your remotes to keep them hidden away (which is always a good play in my book).
1. Tray / Vase / Candle / Coaster | 2. Tray / Vase / Box / Coaster | 3. Tray / Vase / Gold Links | 4. Tray / Vase / Box / Ceramic Object
Moving into the bedroom, the tray can be used on top of your nightstand to help keep things organized or if you have a smaller scale nightstand you could place it on top of your dresser or credenza to help corral a few items. When it comes to nightstands I personally love having a a place to put my rings and jewelry at the end of the night as well as either a small bud vase or candle to enjoy. So for each of the below combos we included a little dish for rings or jewelry and a small vase or candle to make your nightstand setup feel a little more lovely.
#1 is great for those of you that have a smaller scale nightstand and want to keep things light and bright. #2 has a place for a photo as well as a large vase if you love having fresh flowers on your nightstand, but if your thumb isn’t so green it also is pretty enough as a sculptural accessory. #3 leans more modern and graphic what with that two striped marble vase . And #4 is giving me major boho vibes. Fill that planter with a large leafy fern, light that sage and enjoy some hippie vibes.
1. Tray / Frame / Candle / Dish | 2. Tray / Frame / Vase / Dish | 3. Tray / Vase / Ring Holder | 4. Tray / Planter / Dish / Sage / Matches / Ring Holder
Up next is the bathroom, which if you are like me is one of those places where the tray is totally necessary. If you have a vanity that allows for a tray then it can help to corral some of your everyday essentials and also keep things looking visually tidy even if it might not be. I love the way Scott uses his above in his bathroom. Which is a good case for the tray on tray concept. He has a larger tray which holds everything and then smaller trays or bowls which keep things even more organized.
I’ve used them in just about every bathroom we have done and I love how much they help to ground multiple items that would typically be scattered across your sink.
#1 has a little bit of a modern glam vibe going on. Get yourself a few pink peonies for that vase and a bar of pink soap to put in that dish and you’ve got yourself quite a pretty vanity setup. I love the ring dish from #2 and that pink toothbrush is obviously something I wouldn’t mind brushing my teeth with every morning. #3 is calling to all you scandi-philes out there. And #4 is bold and simple and would look so great styled out on a modern vanity.
1. Tray / Canister / Vase / Soap Dish | 2. Tray / Canister / Vase / Cup / Toothbrush / Ring Dish | 3. Tray / Canister / Vase / Toothbrush Holder / Toothbrush / Candle / Stone | 4. Tray / Canister / Ring Holder / Dish / Cup / Toothbrush
Next up we have the office. By a show of digital hands how many of you constantly find yourself looking for the everyday essentials that you need at your desk and then end up rummaging through a junk drawer nearby for a pencil, paperclip or another office supply that you no doubt have lost somewhere else at some point?
These combos will help you not only keep your surface more organized but also will give you a place for all the everyday office essentials so that you don’t have to rummage around anymore looking for what you need. #1 is a classic neutral combo that could work on just about any style desk. Also – everyone needs rose gold binder clips right? #2 has quite a bit of versatility with that tray as it is a few different trays in one and they can be stacked as seen in the photo or they can be separated for even more storage. #3 is something I could see Ms. Kelly Wearstler having on her desk – not sure what she would do with the hourglass? Maybe that is as long as she gives everyone for meetings? Nevertheless I love the graphic black and white and gold combo. And #4 is neutral yet still warm what with those darker elements mixed with the light wood and white vase.
1. Tray / Vase / Box / Clips / Pens / Tape Dispenser | 2. Tray / Cup / Pencils / Box / Stapler / Tape Dispenser | 3. Tray / Cup / Pencils / Scissors / Vase / Hourglass / Clips / Tape Dispenser | 4. Tray / Cup / Pencil / Vase / Moon Dish / Clips / Eye Dish / Push Pins
And last but not least the place where you make those drinks for your cocktail-hole. The dining room or bar setup.
While you could style out a tray with a bunch of pretty alcohol bottles or garnishes like you see in a few of the sample pics. For our roundups we decided to pull together a few combos based on the type of drink that you might make at them. So, let’s finish up this post with a cocktail chat.
#1 is calling out for some vodka, olives and a very dirty martini with this setup. #2 is a simple place for you to decant some of your favorite wine. #3 is speaking to you winos again but this time in copper and rose gold tones. And #4 is for all you whisky drinkers out there. I also love the glasses that can be flipped both ways to use as two different sizes.
1. Tray / Cocktail Shaker / Martini Glass / Mixing Glass / Spoon / Strainer / Bowl | 2. Tray / Carafe and Glass Set / Coaster / Wine Key | 3. Tray / Carafe / Wine Glass / Coaster / Wine Key | 4. Tray / Carafe / Cocktail Glass Set / Whiskey Cube / Coaster
So which of the combos is your favorite? And if you have any questions on any of the above suggestions or how to use trays let us know below.
Who knew a post about trays could be so fun & inspiring?! Now I need one everywhere…
First of all I have to say that you all have been killing it lately!! I’ve been reading your blog daily for YEARS and these past several weeks have been simply amazing in my opinion. I do have one request!! Could you dive a little deeper into this “70’s Italian” look? Until you brought it up on the Griffith Park reveal I had no idea that was even a thing!! But it turns out that is my style exactly..I just never knew what to call it! I just bought my first house and I am feeling so inspired. Thanks Emily and team!!
I second that EHD & team have been killing the posts lately! Thanks guys!
Price adjustment: For Coffee Table Tray Combos, number 4, the Bedford Tray is currently marketed at $148, not the $59 shown in the graphic.
Lovely post though. Very interesting, although I’d be into an expanded bar post roundup (enough items to stock a small bar for casual cocktails with friends, or a beer tasting, or even mocktails).
Ooh good idea! Yes, pls! Could EHD recommend the actual booze?
I feel a fun holiday post coming on!!!
If only my cats didn’t run across my nightstand every night and knock everything off with abandon. I’m guessing Bearcat is more well mannered? 🙂
I love using trays in our home to keep things organized! We have one in the kitchen for beverages (coffee grinder, coffee container, french press, soda stream syrup, and even the soda stream bottle). I hate having things out on the kitchen counter but my husband loves beverages and accesses these items daily. Having them easily accessible (and easy to put back away) really helps keep it all looking contained. We also have one for our dog food container, dog treats, and more dog treats 🙂 The tray keeps it clean looking and also makes it easy to move when we want it out of site for parties. We have a tray on our dining table for coasters, a candle, and a pretty match box, making it simple to slide these items out of the way when we want more room for our laptops after dinner. And we have another at our entry for a key bowl, and again a candle and match box. I’m pretty sure I picked up the tray tip from Emily in the past and it has been really useful in our home!
I can’t tell you how much I love this post. I’ve diet years tryin. TJ get my coffee table right. Can’t wait to try out this Emily approved recipe for success
Also, you can use dishware as a tray; maybe a rectangular plate. World market has a nice round dinner plate with raised edges which I have on my vanity. In the kitchen I use a smallish wooden cutting board to hold oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
I’ve used trays for years with one of my favorites being in the kitchen to hold all things coffee/tea related starting with my small 4 cup/2 mug pot with a small basket to hold the filters, tins to hold coffee and tea. With the new one shot coffee makers that might not be practical for many but I’m still a hold out for the old fashion pots.
What I’ve found exciting over the last ’30/40 years’ is how far trays have come in shape, material and style AND availability.
Wonderful post. Thanks for all the great daily content.
I absolutely love trays. I have one in almost every room! I was kinda feeling like a “one trick pony”, but you’ve justified my addiction.
Perfect timing 🙂 I am a big fan of corralling and displaying on trays, and am in the midst of an organizing flurry where I keep finding vintage trays tucked away! Dansk acrylic, teak, Couroc, Japanese lacquer, aluminum. It’s hard for me to say no to a fine thrift store tray. But I have got to use it or lose it, so will happily be inspired today to put them into action displaying and containing. And I pledge to pass along my leftover trays to put them into back into active use!
I have a couple of trays around my apartment and I’ve always struggled with how to style them. This post helps so much! I love what you’ve been posting recently, makes me want to redo my entire apartment.
Cassey | slightlyluminous.com
I love this! I want to buy everything! So many pretty and useful combinations!
great post! love trays…unfortunately my husband and 7 yo are not on board with your artful styling of trays. If you can do a blog post on how to make crumpled up receipts, miscellaneous business cards, tiny plastic toys, hair bands, and plastic bags full of slime look artful…I’d be happy to offer my house as a laboratory! Oh and there’s my 1 yo too, who likes to climb up, root around in a tray and methodically send each item crashing to the floor. so mostly i use trays right now to gather things up on the mantel out of her reach.
Ha, very funny! I would like to see this tray! Above all, a house must be functional and realistic 🙂
Ha, my husband loves to strew his crumpled receipts and the contents of his pockets around too! I’d love a tip on how to handle it.
Man…I wish I’d never laid eyes on that Nickey Kehoe tray! Nothing can compare, right? But so expensive! Dang it!
Could you do a roundup of ‘Coffee table trays similar to the Nickey Kehoe tray but don’t cost as much as an awesome coffee table’? 😉
Love this post Emily as I’m searching for a tray for my coffee table and was wondering how to style it. My question is about the shape and size of the tray. How do you select that? Is it okay to put a rectangle tray on a rectangle coffee table? Or is it better to change up the shape? How big/small should the tray be? My coffee table is a rectangle 44″ x 32″. I would really appreciate any guidance. Thank you!
He he he, “cocktail-hole.” 🙂
Great ideas Emily! And by placing them in daily use, I can use my cabinets space for other things!! Tks for helping! kisses ML
I’ve found some good trays at Target. A different use for trays at our home is lego projects. It can be moved off of the table and put away when not building.
I totally agree as I have three trays in different rooms right now. On a glass coffee table so it’s not so busy with scrollwork and rug showing underneath the grouping. In the middle of dining table to corral the decorative items. One on kitchen island so everything can be removed at one time when need the area for cooking.
Nice write-up! I really like the many articles or blog posts; I actually beloved, together with I need guidance relating to this, for the reason that it’s beneficial.
These are beautiful trays and vignettes!
As a Brit I am curious, are trays to display things a usual thing in the US? I’ve seen a number of YouTube tutorials on how to display items on your coffee table with a tray but, hand on heart, I don’t think I’ve ever really seen it in the UK (a tray is usually used to carry a tea pot and milk jug here!).
Just wondered if it is a new thing the other side of the pond too?
I love try combos! It makes me feel organized! lol
Yay! Thanks for justifying my addiction.
Love rethink the.. series! Can you please add rethink the art?! It’s amazing how a room can be transformed by fresh, modern art. There is so much out there that we can throw aunt gertie’s out the window- finally!
Yes! Art can transform. Would like to see the same
In my office at work, I had a bunch of supplies (stapler, tape dispenser, notepad, post it notes, containers of binder clips, etc) that looked scattered. I read somewhere (maybe here) that trays really help things look pulled together. I bought a cute tray, popped everything on, and voila! Messy desk no more! Trays really are magic. The only problem with the ones above is that I now want all of them!
Very good brief and this post helped me a lot. Say thank you I searching for your facts. Continuous it..
When I feel board. Then I come on your blog and read some post which u have post recently..
I need more trays in my life apparently!
I was excited to finally land on a tray (that my bf found of all people!) that worked for my wooden coffee table. It had edges and was big enough to hold all the random crap that accumulates there. It was not even there for a full 24 hours … and the dang cat adopted it! He LOVES it. Now I’m so worried about having stuff in it that will disturb him, the tray is empty and my coffee table is covered in crap again…
I love this! I want to buy everything! So many pretty and useful combinations!
ankara da gezilecek yerler
I rethink about tray for real 😮 Feel like I’ve been using them wrong for the whole time (I use tray like cutting table for fruits). Thank you for sharing the post! Love all the combos your shared. I only have ugly stainless steel tray 🙁 Gonna buy some more.