February 27, 2017

Why Decorators Like Trays


Decorators use many different Elements when they are building a Vignette or Corralling Things in a Bathroom or on a Kitchen counter.


We use them as a way to define the space for a Vignette or Collection of items.  The Tray or Base for the Vignette has a unifying effect on the whole display.  

It is especially appealing when the right elements are used together and heights are varied.

I have my assortment of trays, boxes and baskets that I like to use.

Along the way, I have found some unusual things to use as a base and I am encouraging my readers to look around and find new and different starting points for their Vignettes.

While cleaning out the Shed we found this old galvanised metal Tool Caddy.  Someone at some time crafted it.


It was full of dirt, straw, and some old rusty nuts and washers.  It was bent a bit, but I could see that all it needed was a good cleaning and a little wax to brighten it a bit.  

It had a couple of rust spots on the inside so I applied some Cold Galvanizing Compound on them.  If you decide to use this Compound on your galvanised metal just know that the colour isn't quite as nice as the original galvanised metal, but a little wax helped to tone it down.

A starting point for me is this tray with the bevelled mirror.


It is not exactly a tray, though.  You will see a latch and the remains of some hinges.

In fact, it is actually an old Medicine Cabinet Door and it is in original condition.  I simply cleaned it.

Let's look at some of the elements in this display.

* How will it be seen?  It is placed on the table and against a wall.  It will be viewed from the front and sides.


* With an asymmetrical display such as this, I like to use an odd number of elements.  I think I counted 7.

The highest point is on the right at the back.
Everything else is progressively shorter right down to the Child's white Tea Set.

* Use similar colour and varied texture to bring together disparate objects.

The colours in this display are white, green, with a little buff colour in the crockery bottle, nest, and burlap bow.


The colours are soft, but there is variety in shape and texture giving the display dimension.


The shortest element here is the Child's Tea Set.


Here you can see the Moss Egg in its Nest under the Dome.
The White Cow reminds me of the Charolais cattle that Merv kept and bred for many years.

* The various objects that you choose to use may not always be at the right height.  Sometimes you will have to prop things from underneath.  The domed nest is sitting on a cake stand.

* If I were making this to go in the middle of a table where it would be seen on all sides it would make sense to place the tallest element more towards the middle of the tray and work outward from there.

I also use this Toolbox that I made several years ago at Lee Valley Tools.  My friend and I took a one day class where we each built one.


We didn't take the class because we particularly needed the toolboxes, but because they were going to let us use a variety of power tools.  Neither of us had used all of the tools before that day.  There was a table saw, band saw, radial arm saw, router, drill press, and possibly some others that memory doesn't recall.

The class was for women and taught by two women who each made their living working with tools.  Taking the class with us was a young mother who's husband waited in the car with their baby.  When it was time to nurse the child, he would come and knock on the door of the classroom and hand over the little one to its mother.  He would return at an appropriate time to retrieve the baby.

The toolbox is narrow and would accommodate a few plant pots, a stack dishes of varying heights and pattern as in the photo, or use to present linens on a buffet table.  There are any number uses for a toolbox besides tools and more than I have mentioned.

* There are many different types of trays that can be used.  Tiered trays, wood trays, silver trays, trays without handles, tiered plate racks, mirrored trays, or just simply mirrors.  


* Think of a mantel as a tray.  The same principles that apply to styling trays also apply to the mantel.  Start at the back with the tallest elements and come forward and out to the sides.  

Sometimes I have to move or remove elements and replace them.  When you get the arrangement to where you think it might be right, stand back and have a good look.  Look at it from different angles to make sure it is what you have in mind.  There are times I sit in front of it or leave the room entirely and then go over and move it again.

It will come together, eventually.

I mostly use asymmetrical displays, but making a symmetrical display is also very nice, especially on a mantel or long surface such as a buffet.

Just enjoy being Creative.

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  1. Your pieces are lovely on their own and wonderful together.Thanks for sharing at Monday Social.

    1. Thank you Eilis. It is nice to hear from you and I enjoy being a part of Monday Social.

  2. Cute trays. Thanks for linking to Monday Social. Come by and see yourself featured.

  3. Welcome Barbara. Very well thought out vignettes. The blue glass bottles with clear stoppers are beautiful. I have never seen clear stoppers on blue glass before.
    Some years back I happen to buy a set of Lucite file holders (U shaped to stand up files). Forget that; I turn them upside down to stage the height in my vignettes. From the hardware store trash bin, I got a length of wood with a channel cut in it to stand up my plates.

    1. Hi Bkita

      I like that you use things in different and original ways. Taking something that was meant to be used in one way and repurposing it. This is creative thinking.

      I have a little secret about the bottle stoppers. They are not bottle stoppers at all. The bottles didn't come with stoppers. They are blown glass balls that I purchased a number of years ago. They are meant to float in a water display. They look like bubbles on top of water. I knew the bottles would be hard to clean out so I use the bubbles to keep the dust out.


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