DIYdiy projects

diy project: ashley’s floral tray table

by Kate Pruitt

The television tray is a charmingly outdated invention, but it still appeals to me. Ironically, the last thing I want to do with this tray is use it for its main purpose, which is dining. Don’t get me wrong, I can rival any fifties family when it comes to eating meals in front of the television. I prefer to hold my plate — usually heaped with pizza or a burrito — in my lap. I also slouch and slurp my drinks. I’m your basic etiquette nightmare.

I would love to own a set of these folding trays for other uses, especially if they were as beautiful as Ashley’s version. Ashley’s instructions are super easy to follow, and I love her choice of color pallete and graphic floral design. This tray table would make a cute foldaway surface for writing and crafting, or would look great as a side table for stashing your keys and mail. Personally, I would love to use it for serving cocktails or hors d’oeuvres at a party. You get to show it off as you mingle and carry around drinks, and you have the perfect place to set it down when you need to freshen up. Now that’s good fifties etiquette. — Kate

Click here to see more of Ashley’s projects on her site. If you missed our post on Ashley’s vintage spool DIY project, you can check it out here.

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

I have always liked the mix of vintage and modern. There are many modern replications of vintage items, but I find it especially fun to give something old a new life. Recently, I spotted a metal tray on my neighbor’s front porch, destined for the trash. It is now a quaint little “desk” for schoolwork in our living room. These types of trays and TV stands can be found in flea markets, garage sales, estate sales and thrift shops. Here are some simple steps for using a paper stencil to give your metal trays a makeover. Enjoy! — Ashley


  • old tray and stand
  • sandpaper (fine grit)
  • rust primer spray paint (available at hardware stores)
  • patterned paper
  • x-acto knife and sharp blade
  • re-positionable adhesive
  • colored spray paint (you need a color for the base and one for the pattern design)
  • scrap paper and cardboard


Step 1: Clean the tray thoroughly. Using a fine sandpaper or sanding brick, lightly sand the entire surface, removing all loose paint and rust. Using painter’s tape, cover any areas that you do not want painted.

Step 2: Spray with a rust primer.

Step 3: Spray with spray paint, following the manufacturer’s recommended dry times and recoat times. This step usually needs to take place within an hour of when the primer was put on.

Step 4: Create your paper stencil. I choose to use a scrapbooking paper with a floral design. Using an x-acto knife, I cut out each section to create my stencil.

Step 5: Apply re-positionable adhesive to the back of your paper stencil and press firmly down on the tray. Make sure each area is firmly adhered.

Step 6: Cover all areas of the tray that you do not want painted with the second color. Once you have covered the stencil area with spray paint, remove the paper, tape and stencil by gently pulling it up.

Enjoy your new tray!

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  • love love love! My husband was threatening buying TV trays, but now I’m all up for it since I have a great DIY project ahead of me!

  • i like the colors! very cool. I have a metal desk waiting to be repainted .. might have to try something similar on it. :)

  • oh man im a total lap eater lol. i have a one bedroom thats somewhere in between a real one bedroom and a studio lol. anyway no layout for a dinning table. As such I eat at the coffee table, which is all low and weird.
    Result=I eat on my lap.
    so sad. lol don’t tell anyone!
    maybe i should make this tray. . .

  • what kind of paper are you using for the stencil? I would imagine you need something with some rigidity…?

  • Amelia – it is just standard scrapbooking paper. There is cardboard underneath when I was cutting, but the paper itself isn’t very rigid.

  • It looks pretty unprofessional when a design blog can’t spell “palette” – this isn’t the first time! A pallet is for moving things around a warehouse! Or if you’re unlucky, sleeping on :P

    • stella

      sorry about the typo. we try to catch as much as possible but every now and then things slip through the cracks. but we do know the difference between palette and pallet ;)


  • Love it! I will be on the lookout for TV trays at thrift stores now. What an awesome project.

  • I never thought I would want tray tables in my house… a childhood memory usually associated with frozen TV dinners… but you’ve made me love them! The white background gives them such a fresh feel.

  • What a fun and cute project! (But really everything Ashley does is amazing.) I always see trays like this at the flea market but I’ve never known what I would do with them.
    *Stella, it’s funny that you mention sleeping on a pallet because Ashley actually made a SUPER cute pallet bed that I would be very lucky to sleep on. :)

  • We used to have these tv trays when I was a kid – would eat tv dinners and watch star trek. What a fabulous way to repurpose them – I will have to watch for them now at garage and estate sales. Does anyone have a more simple idea for the stencil?

  • What a great project — I can’t wait to try this on a pair of old TV trays I’ve had stashed away for the last few years!

  • Does anyone know where I can find just legs to these trays? I have my own project going with some of these trays but my grandmother only saved the trays and not the 6 sets of legs!
    Any suggestions?

  • Sarah-if you go to any craft store (like Hobby Lobby) there are some great textured/specialty scrapbook paper. I’ve used them for stencils before and they are easier than x-acto-knifing it, but your options are more limited.

  • Great idea and I couldn’t agree more about renewing old pieces! I’m doing the same with vintage jewelry! There is an emotional connection when you take something old and give it new life… and it means that much more to you than buying a new item!

  • I love how it turned out. I don’t know I’d have the patience to cut out the stencil but it sure looks like it was worth AshleyAnn’s time.

  • Ashley: I had just the tops of my grandmother’s tables, too. I looked for many years for just legs — not wanting to ruin another complete set by using only the legs. One day I happened upon an estate sale near where my grandmother used to live in the 1960s. While I walked through the house, it felt soooo familiar, as if I were walking through may grandmother’s house 30 years ago. On a lark, as I was leaving, I asked if they had any tv trays for sale. They said that unfortunately, they didn’t have any trays, but they had a set of just legs for sale. Unbelievable! Now I think I might spruce them up, as the floral pattern is not quite my style but I would never part with them.

  • I love this project! I don’t think I’d have the patience to cut that detailed stencil myself, but luckily, I already have a collection of pre-cut stencils in my craft room. Now I just need to dig through them to find a design to use on my own tray tables!

  • I use two black wooden tray tables as night stands. The paint is chipping after years of use. This would make a great weekend project. Thanks!

  • Wow.. This is super fun!!! I would love to try it!

    I was almost forgetting… Talking about “fun”, Heidi Klum and Seal just bought a new house in La. You need to take a look. I think you’d love the Italian rose gardens.


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

  • I hope I spell correctly, I wouldn’t want the spelling police to arrest me, lol!

    For those of you who have a fear of cutting all those little petals out…..if you have any paper punchers, just punch some paper and use that as your design.

    Very cool project, I like it!

  • P.S. any of you owing a cricut…..this would be so cute in a little girls bedroom. Cut out your pieces using the vinyl ashesive. So sweet!!!!

  • I’m going to make two of these and use them as nightstands for my teen daughter! Also, I have a cricut so the pattern will be easy. Now on the hunt for my tables! First stop my parents attic ;)

  • Where do you get the paper for this?! I have been looking everywhere for a dahlia print like this, but can’t find it!

    Looks AMAZING! I love this project!

  • This is darling! I can just imagine the frustration of cutting out each of those little petals. If it was me my eyes would start crossing almost immediately!

  • I am about to do this project and I am worried about lead in the paint. But I can’t find any info one if there was even lead in the kind of paint used on vintage metal. Did you look into this?