Upcycled Tray

A functional thrift store tray gets a pretty facelift

The minute this issue had a strong garden/outdoor theme going, we knew we had to upcycle something with a floral motif. Florals aren’t necessarily “in” like they used to be, but that’s good because it means there’s an abundance of floral materials you can revamp from the thrift store.

We started with this basic tray, which happens to rest with spring-loaded legs on the arm of a chair or couch. We liked the angles and the fact that it was pretty ugly to start. That blond wood veneer was calling our names!

First, we found three-four plates with floral patterns in the center. They typically cost $1-$2. Look for plates that are the same depth with complementary colors. The centers of the plates are flat, so don’t think you can use the decorative edges of plates, as they are tapered and will make the surface of the tray uneven.

To break the plates, grab some safety glasses, heavy gloves, a hammer and newspaper. We used cardboard to protect our floor, but if you break the plates outside, you can just use the newspaper. Place a plate between two sections of newspaper and bash away. It’s a very therapeutic process. You’ll need a variety of sizes in your pieces and make sure each one is flat.

Next, clean the tray and prepare to spend some time figuring out a puzzle. We thought this part would be wasy, but the mosaic can take hours! For this angular piece, starting at the edges was very helpful. Once you’re happy with the design, grab your mosaic tile adhesive and rubber gloves. Pick up each piece and squeeze glue on the plate and the tray. Gluing both surfaces helps the bonding. When all the pieces are glued down, let it dry according to the glue’s directions.

After the tiles are set, it’s time to grout. We used a simple pre-made grout from the crafts store. Work the grount into the cracks with a putty knife. You may need two coats for larger gaps. After a copule of hours, scrape away excess grout and use a wet cloth to clean it up further, polishing each tile.

Now, you can paint the tray before laying the tile, ours just didn’t play out that way (because we’re not very good planners). Ha! But it was simple enough to tape off the tile and paint after it was finished. We used Americana Wasabi Green acrylic paint.

You can apply this method to any tray or even a table. It takes a bit of time overall, and multiple drying times, but we love the finished look.