TRAY 101: How to shop for a tray and things to consider when styling it

When it comes to trays, it can get a little overwhelming trying to decide which one is right for you.

We're going to break it down for you so that hopefully you'll walk click out of here with a better understanding of what to shop for!

1. APPLICATION: Kitchen, Coffee Table, Vanity, Entryway, Closet, Bar  

Trays organize and enhance a space. It's that extra layer that pulls the look together, kind of like a perfect belt or scarf that completes the outfit. Think of it as a picture frame for horizontal surfaces.Minimize visual clutter by grouping items together inside a tray. 

Some ways to use trays: 

  • Kitchen - Organize your coffee station, group your everyday kitchen tools (salt & pepper shakers, utensil holder)
  • Coffee Table - Show off your favorite books, group your coasters, candles and plants, unique conversation starter pieces are good here, add a box to hold all the ugly but important stuff (ie. remote controls) 
  • Vanity - Organize your heavy-rotation skincare products, add your favorite candles & plants, organize your favorite jewelry or perfume  
  • Entryway - Organize your small everyday objects (ie. keys, wallet, sunglasses)
  • Closet -  Display watches, belts, ties, etc. 
  • Bar - Display your cocktail shakers and barware

You'll want to take into consideration the purpose of the tray and surface it will be sitting on to make sure it works for you. 


  • Is it for a coffee table? If you plan on moving the tray often, a tray with handles will make your life easier. 
  • Is it a wet area? Avoid brass or metals that will rust. Wood can be okay depending on the type, ie. bamboo is resistant to water and mold. Trays with small standoffs underneath can be useful here. 
  • Is it for your watch collection or a catch-all valet where you'll be throwing your keys? You'll want to be careful with glass or fragile trays but leather or wood trays are a safe bet.    


  • What is the finish of the surface and does it work with the tray? This is where it gets tricky, but a safe bet is to try not to match the finish of the tray with your surface. For example, don't get a white marble tray if you have a white marble counter top unless you're okay with it not matching.  
  • Is the surface delicate? Check the bottom of the tray to make sure it's smooth and won't scratch your surface.  


  • Rule of 3: group items in sets of 3 (or 5, basically an odd number)
  • Mix heights and mass: Balance out the weight of a large bulky item (ie. hurricane), with something organic in shape (ie. driftwood branch). Have a mix of tall, short, and in-between heights.  
  • Not everything needs to fit inside the tray, you can also stack books beside the tray and top with a decorative object. 
  • It's okay to have a smaller tray beside a larger tray. 
  • It's okay to have a tray full of candles and nothing else. 

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