diy wednesdays: mini mosaic tray

during these chilly winter months, we always like to have a hot beverage close at hand. whether we’re eating at the dining room table, or responding to emails from the couch, or even reading in bed, having a little heat-proof tray we can bring from room to room is a big help. this project is also a great way to try your hand at creating a very basic mosaic. it’s a fun process that requires very few tools and materials to achieve a beautiful and functional result. click here for the full instructions or just click “read more” below.

have fun!
derek & lauren

here’s what you’ll need:

-a shallow display box or tray (we got ours at ikea)
-mosaic tiles
-tacky glue
-grout (we got a 1lb container of ‘non-sanded’ grout and mixed about 1/4 of it)
-putty knife
-paint (optional)

1. decide on an arrangement for your tiles.

2. glue them in place, making sure the gap between them is neither too small (they shouldn’t be touching), nor too big (no more than 1/8”).
3. once the glue is dry, mix up your grout according to the instructions on the container. this usually means adding water to the powder until it reaches the consistency of a thick “non-pourable” milkshake.

4. spread a generous amount of grout over the surface of all the tiles. use the putty knife to force the grout into the gaps between the tiles.
5. scrape as much grout off the surface of the tiles as you can with the putty knife, and allow it to set for about 15 minutes.
6. wipe down the surface of the tiles with a clean, damp cloth. go over the whole thing in a circular motion to pick up residual grout from the tops of the tiles.

7. allow your mosaic to cure for 2 to 3 days before using. during this time, mist the surface occasionally with water to prevent the grout from cracking.
8. paint edge of tray with paint if desired.

  1. M says:

    Cute! You could go a step further and get some Envirotex Lite Pour-on (it’s a resin) to protect the tiles and smooth out the surface even more.

  2. Stacey says:

    This is terrific. I’ve been looking for a tray but I also have left over glass tiles from my kitchen backsplash and now I know what I can do with them. Thanks!

  3. Lindsey says:

    where would be an appropriate place to get mosaic tiles? any suggestions?

  4. Anna @ D16 says:

    Hey, this is a nice way to use up leftover tiles from my bathroom renovations! I have a bunch of 1″ marble hex tile and some tiny black pennyrounds. Certainly better than leaving them in the basement to gather dust!

  5. When using raw wood of this type for mosaics, it’s very important to seal the wood from both sides with a — the side to be worked and the back side as well. The reason is that there is a pretty high risk that the wood will buckle and bow, breaking up the mosaic after a bit of time. Another thing which will increase the life of the tray would be to impregnate the grout after it has dried with grout sealer — like that if anything spills, it won’t go down to the wood, stain the grout, or effect the mosaic.

  6. sorry, with a urethane wood sealer, I meant to say.

  7. Erica K says:

    You know, I’ve seen lots of trays being made, and didn’t get why. But your post made me realize…if I have my drink on a tray, and it spills, it’ll spill in the tray and not all over the place! I might have to make one…

  8. brand-eye says:

    this is great. i have a bunch of small tiles like this that i bought as samples when trying to decide what to put in our kitchen. (susan jablon tiles, a great source). and am going to ikea tonight with my sister so i can pick up a tray. perfect timing!

  9. Mouse says:

    Cute! I love the teeny tiny tile.

  10. Jacqui says:

    most craft stores have tiles like these; i know for sure michaels has a tiny little mosaic section.

  11. Niki says:

    I am totally going to do this this weekend! YAY!

  12. Janine says:

    Really fabulous DIY!

  13. Jamie says:

    Adorable! This would be perfect in my bathroom.

  14. Sandi says:

    Can’t one buy those mosaic tiles connected on a mesh from a tile store….like they do bathroom showers etc.

  15. Megan says:

    What a fun project and beautiful tray! Those blue tiles are so pretty. This would be the perfect gift to make for Mother’s Day-I’m going to have to bookmark this so I remember!

  16. awesome! I have “make a mosaic” on my list of things to do this year and this would be a great into as my first mosaic project!

  17. emilykristin says:

    oh, you could do this with heath ceramics tiles. I don’t have any big tiling projects that I can do (renter), but have always wanted to use their tiles for something. This might be it.

  18. Amy says:

    Cute! This looks like a fun project to do. I love the look of mosaics – the tiles are so pretty!

  19. tina says:

    This would make for a great hostess gift when paired with tea or a mug! Any ideas where I can find a small dish like the one holding the lemons in the photo? Thanks for the idea!

  20. grace says:


    that’s a tray by lorena barrezueta, who’s part of our “design by the book” video series:

    you can buy her work here:


  21. Justine says:

    I can’t wait to do this!!!

  22. Clara says:

    What about using pieces of broken china instead of tiles? Has anyone tried it out?

  23. Tamstyles says:

    That makes me look forward to retirement…I have a loooooong time to go, but still. I see me and my Honey with that on the porch (if we have one) watching grandkids play…thats the life.

  24. There is no problem using broken china per se but the biggest challenge is that if you plan to use the tray, broken china tends to be bowed and it is difficult to get a flat surface out of it. For utilitarian mosaics these little flat tiles as shown are great or go to a local tile shop that sells bathroom and floor tile and see if they have any samples to either sell or give away. Just be careful when breaking the larger tiles, or buy a tile cutter.

  25. Renate says:

    Great idea – use pieces of broken china. I see a tray with romantic floral patterns… or delft blue style… I’ll have to keep my eyes open for plates I can smash, next time i’m at the thriftstore!

  26. annkent says:

    Thank you for sharing this process with us!

  27. ashleym says:

    This is great. Am so making these for xmas gifts next year.
    I got a huge amount from a flooring company for free- a bunch of tiles were discontinued and the sample books were going to be thrown out.

  28. Erin says:

    I love this idea! Mosaic is one of my favorite hobbies.

    I got some pretty glass tiles from dick blick but using china works well too.


  29. Kristan says:

    What a fabulous idea!

  30. sarah says:

    heath ceramics is a great resource for anyone living in the bay area or coming through town. we have a great assortment of overstock and seconds tile in our sausalito factory and it always changes….

  31. Cherry says:

    I have extra really pretty mosaic tiles in my house. This would be a good project for what’s left over.

  32. Clara says:

    Diana, it’s like Renate suggested – use broken plates :)

    Renate, I’ve also seen a table made with MDF and broken china. I’ll scan the magazine page where this table is pictured tomorrow and post the link here :)

  33. Ashmore says:

    I have also seen very pretty counters done using broken glass (like from different colored bottles). I think they used some sort of resin or sealer to make the surface level.

  34. mosaic tiles says:

    How cute.

    I am going to break up my old bathroom tiles and make a mosaic tray with random patterns.



  35. Lolly says:

    I am a beginner and what a great way to start. Thanks for this geat ides.

  36. (@|20|3 says:

    Are these non-breakable? My little brother’s b-day is coming up…..


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