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Pro Tips for Styling Trays

Pro Tips for Styling Trays

The tray is a wonderfully versatile design piece that works just about anywhere. These babies are right at home on the coffee table, that oversized ottoman, the mantle, the entryway table, the kitchen island, the kitchen table, the bench at the foot of your bed, and the list goes on. Here at Third & Main, we love a good tray (and if you’ve seen our spring sneak peeks, you already know that we’re packing them with love into our spring boxes!). Now, we’re sharing pro tips for styling trays, wherever you decide to put them.

Styling this Easy, Versatile Accent

A tray immediately defines the space you’re styling, but the key is to be mindful of balance, scale and color. Remember, the tray itself serves as the base for other interesting or functional items, but you need to factor in the impact it’s bringing to the vignette. Here’s what to keep in mind.


When we talk about balance, we’re referring to both visual and physical balance. That means using pieces of varying height and spatial weight for a chic, pulled-together effect. Avoid crowding the tray. The goal is to display, not to clutter (visually or physically!), so be intentional about what you’re using.

Think about shapes, too. A tidy stack of books can help balance a round tray, for example. Remember that odd numbers tend to appear more pleasing to the eye, so shoot for three, five or seven decor pieces on your tray, depending on size. Keep in mind that stacks of items (like books topped with a decorative piece) count as one item. If you move the decorative piece next to the books, now you have two. Greenery doesn’t count toward your item total, since it’s considered filler.

  • Scale

  • Your tray size itself can help dictate the size of the decor pieces on display. An oversized tray will work best with weightier pieces, and vice versa. That’s how you avoid a sense of disharmony. A good rule of thumb is to measure the width of the tray and let that dictate the height of your tallest decor piece. That way, you won’t make the tray feel too small.
  • Color

  • This is a great place to work in pops of color. If the tray itself has lots of color, rein in the color on most of the accessories. If your tray is neutral, play up the color in your accessories. Incorporating fresh or faux greens makes it easy, helps break things up, and adds interesting texture

  • A Few Extra Tips

    • You really can’t overdo it with trays, since they come in so many shapes and sizes, and they so effectively work as a gathering place to organize different objects without feeling cluttered. 
    • When you’re choosing items to display, remember that contrast adds interest, so think about opposites. If you’re using a beautiful smoked glass candle, for instance, balance it with something made with wood or metal. 
    • Generally, leaving an inch border around the perimeter of the tray helps keep it from feeling too full. 
    • Try to avoid flat surfaces. In other words, top that horizontal stack of books with something interesting.
    • Remember to decorate vertically, not just horizontally. Incorporate pieces with varying heights.

    The Bottom Line

    Follow these tips, and we promise you’ll be as crazy about trays as we are! Need a good tray to get started? Check out the decor shop or better yet, become a Third & Main member today and have curated decor—yes, including trays!—shipped right to your door. It’s the easiest and most enjoyable way to style your home beautifully.

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