Christmas · DIY · Valentines Day

How to Decorate Tiered Trays

How to Decorate Tiered Trays

Tiered trays are so popular these days. Although I always admired the creativeness put into the trays I ran across on Pinterest, I wasn’t inclined to include one in my home décor. That is until after I found my two long forgotten tiered food stands and had also begun stocking my finally-almost-finished craft studio with supplies. While shopping, I kept seeing the cutest little things that would look adorable on a tray, so I finally started playing with tiered trays.

I am by no means an expert at decorating, but I do know there are a few tricks for composing a little vignette. Basically what you are doing is pulling together a small group of related items to display in your home. I see a lot of gorgeous tiered trays styled specifically for kitchens, but these can be designed to go in any room. The cool thing about these tiered trays is that you can add a little seasonal or holiday décor without a lot of effort. Plus it’s fun to inject some of your personality into your space.

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Base Tray

There are a bunch of options for your base tray. Here is a metal frame two tier tray. I have also seen bamboo wood trays for an organic look and galvanized metal trays for a farmhouse look. White enamel trays (like this small tray unit) are really popular too.

Although the tiered trays are cute and definitely make a statement, you could use a single flat tray or shallow basket and it would be just as pretty.

I actually found my metal tiered food stands years ago at thrift stores. On the black stand I found fancy cut glass looking plastic serving plates. They had rims on the underside, so I used a hot knife (held over a candle for a minute or so) to cut in little grooves to fit over the metal ring of the stand.

Or you could make your own from things you have at home or from Dollar Tree. Below are a few examples of some I made. I used some newly purchased cake pans and burner covers, plus some old melamine plates from a couple of summer ago to try out different styles. I like a little stand under them, so on one I used an upside down cake pan. Most of the DIY versions use candle sticks between each tray, but I haven’t seen any lately on the store shelves. Dollar Tree margarita glasses work well for the center part. In another, I used a tall thinner recycled jar for the middle and a recycled medicine bottle for the top. I have seen them made up using a pizza pan on the bottom, the large burner cover in the middle and the small burner cover on the top. Just use whatever is pleasing to you. You’ll also need E6000 glue, hot glue, paint of choice and I also use Krylon Triple Glaze to protect against scratching the paint. Wal-Mart and Dollar General both carry E6000, and Wal-Mart carries the Krylon Triple Glaze.

I used chalk paint on these metal and glass pieces below. Wal-Mart also sells chalk paint.

Making your own tiered tray is super easy, but there are a few tricks to making them.

  1. For the most secure glue adhesion, use both E6000 and hot glue. The E6000 is for a strong bond, but needs to cure and dry 24 hours. The hot glue dries immediately, so holds the pieces together while the E6000 cures.
  2. Decide on your tray design first before starting to glue.
  3. Wipe the pieces with vinegar or rubbing alcohol to remove any grease film.
  4. It’s easier to paint the pieces before gluing. However, I find the glues adhere better if they have direct contact with the metal, plastic or glass. Just leave the area where glue will be applied to join the pieces unpainted, then go back and touch up the paint after the glue dries. I added a couple of bags of beans on the top tray while drying to help hold the pieces tight together.

Choose a Theme

Pick an upcoming holiday, a special occasion, or a season. Also, bear in mind the room it will be in. You wouldn’t want kitcheny stuff on a bedroom tiered tray. I think setting up a tiered tray on a bedroom dresser or master bath counter with inspirational and motivational stuff would be amazing.

Start with a focal piece and then build around it with related items. Other interesting items would include small smooth glass objects or figurines, wood signs, maybe a fabric item, plus different shapes. I found some beautiful tile coasters at Dollar Tree that are perfect to include.

I find it helpful to gather the main elements for each theme and group it together before I start decorating the tiered tray. The bottom right grouping is for later this year. I used to have a large pig collection long ago, but got rid of all of it. This pig was super cute, so I went ahead and bought it. Everything else there was perfect for a farmhouse theme. I got the little clipboard so I can change out notes or quotes.


When pulling items together, keep in mind the season and think of what natural elements would fit in the design too. Look for a variety of textures to add interest.

Greenery & Fillers

In my opinion, greenery and foliage just adds a finishing touch to your vignette. I like to use small to medium size leaves or some kind of greenery as a background and as a filler.       

Twigs, little tree branches and other things gathered from outside fill in the gaps and adds additional texture and interest. Dollar stores have several inexpensive natural elements in their floral departments that are perfect.

The cotton in the photo below is the real thing straight from a field years ago and the gold twigs were some from the yard that I had spray painted gold. I cut a larger branch into 3 pieces, lightly brushed on white paint, then used a black sharpie to put little lines on it to simulate birch logs, then wrapped twine around them.

I didn’t want to wait to have wood beads delivered, so I painted some bead garland from my Christmas stash with white chalk paint. They turned out ok, but I’m ordering these beads from Amazon for future designs.

Christmas Themed Tiered Tray Decor

For my Christmas theme, I used a dollar store Santa Claus figure dressed in red felt as the focal point. I had recently made the decorative jar on top and thought it would look cute with the candy canes in it. We had started drinking hot chocolate in the evenings, so I included a plastic container in the back of the bottom shelf for hot chocolate mix envelopes, a jar of marshmallows in the front, plus 2 red mugs on the back of the top shelf. For fillers, I added a little sprig of red berries to the jar of candy canes, the little red truck, a sled ornament hanging on the right side, a snowman on the bottom tray and just because I had no where else to put them, two snowman figurines in the front with cotton balls for snowballs. Finally, there is a dollar store hot cocoa towel tied on the left side and a sign with the Legend of the Candy Cane story on the left. The red placemat gave it a finished look. (I just noticed in the photo that the greenery I had on the back of the bottom shelf fell off the back…oops!)

Winter Themed Tiered Tray Decor

My winter-themed set started with a stacked book piece. Once my focal piece was decided on, the rest just fell into place. I had the little ceramic birds from a yard sale purchase last summer, large bead garland that I painted ivory and mini pine cones left over from a craft project last winter. The deer and the owl were both Christmas ornaments from Dollar General, and the little deer antlers were purchased with some Halloween and Fall décor at Wal-Mart last fall. The reed balls were in a package of 6 at one of the dollar stores. Hubby cut the house shape out of a piece of scrap wood and I painted the words Hello Winter on it. One of the Dollar Tree coasters is tucked behind the right side of the owl on the bottom shelf. I hot glued the end of a 1’x 4″ strip of heavy cardboard to the back to make a stand. It worked perfectly.

Valentine Themed Tiered Tray Decor

The tray below is one of my DIY trays and I have to admit, I really like it! The red heart is cut out of cardboard and wrapped with Dollar Tree yarn. Can’t remember which store, but the Blessings jar was from one of the dollar stores. The pink Styrofoam hearts were in a package of 6. I pulled some of them off the sticks. I also included the Forever and Always sign and heart bead garland, both from Dollar Tree.

I thought the candy in the mailbox was a cute idea. For some other themes, I’m sure I can find little dishes or containers of some sort that would look adorable to hold some candy treats.

Here’s another design below using my metal tiered tray using a couple of different Dollar Tree signs and the red yarn wrapped heart. The heart sunglasses were just super cute, so I included them.

Let me tell you about the little stacked books. I didn’t want to wait till I went to town again, and I didn’t think I could find small enough books anyway, so I improvised. I had these boxes of drink mixes in the cupboard, so I emptied them, and stuffed a little wadded up newspaper in them (Picture 1 below). Then I wrapped masking tape around each to help cover up the print on the boxes (Picture 2 below) I glued 3 of the little boxes together and painted them. I freehanded the winter words with a pencil then filled in the letters with a sharpie felt tip marker (Picture 3 below).

As I was exchanging the winter-themed items with Valentine stuff, I decided to try replacing the jute with red yarn and a little sprig of red flowers (Picture 4 below). I pulled out my alphabet stamps to see which fit better. The smaller ones worked best to put the words Hugs and Kisses on the opposite side. I was patting myself on the back for the brilliant idea of making these super cheap and for two themes. Unfortunately, my ink pads were old, so the letters weren’t as bright as I would have liked, but it worked.

I hope this post gives you some ideas to make your own tiered trays!


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