Don’t let go of those old TV trays quite yet! Here’s how to beautifully customize yours with these easy DIY TV tray ideas using stencils!
I think I start nearly every one of my TV tray makeover posts with, “One of my favorite things to collect at thrift stores are TV trays”.
Because it’s completely and utterly true.
Why a TV tray?
But my preference is always foldable TV tray tables because not only are they super affordable, they are a blast to make over, fun to customize thanks to the flat tops, easy to fold for storage and can be used for most anything desired!
- easy to find
- fun to customize for a home decorator
- so handy to use
- easy storage by folding
- such easy portability with easy lifting
- flat tray top is perfect for stencils
- handy for guests
Possible uses for TV trays
If you walk through my house, you’ll spot a unique TV tray in nearly every room.
Even though I regard TV trays as helpers vs. permanent furniture replacements, over time, most of my DIY TV tray makeovers do stay out full-time, because they are that pretty to look at and durable enough to do the job.
Personally, I am always moving the TV trays around from room to room to use for different tasks at a given moment thanks to the convenience of their easy portability.
Here’s a few unique ways to use them:
- bedside nightstand or breakfast tray beside the bed
- laptop station
- laptop desk
- side tables for any space
- extra space for office or kitchen use
- mini coffee station
- extra space for painting supplies
- handy for workshop tools
- outdoor picnics
- porches or patios
- plant stands
- for snacks beside the couch in the living room
Where to find used TV trays
TV trays can be found most anywhere. While thrift stores tend to be the most predominant spot I find them, don’t forget to check the curb, garage sales, and especially Facebook marketplace!
- garage sales
- furniture stores
- thrift stores
- the curb
- Facebook marketplace
- estate sales
TV tray checklist: what to check for
But not all TV trays are alike.
Since most anything is fixable, here’s a few things to watch for:
- Is stability intact?
- Can it be fixed?
- Is it solid wood so it’s easily revamped?
- Does it have a natural wood finish that can be easily modified?
- Is there more than one? Bonus if 2 or more!
So now that you know where and what to look for, let’s talk about giving TV trays a makeover!
How to prep TV trays
Solid wood TV tray makeover preps are very easy to do since their sizes are so compact and surfaces perfectly flat.
Although prep is dependent on which paint products, supplies and outcome you’re going for, this step is generally fairly minimal.
- give the TV tray a good clean. I like using Fusion’s non toxic TSP HERE
- scuff or lightly sand surfaces to create tooth for the paint and stain to adhere to
- aggressively sand surface if you are removing previous stain or paint
- clean sawdust off well, then stencil, stain or paint the top and legs as desired
- lightly sand with high grit sandpaper in between any double coating for the smoothest finish
Products for TV Tray Makeovers
I’m personally always on the lookout for classic or vintage inspired ways to design my TV trays. That’s the beauty of using a stencil and paint. You can choose your own design and colors according to your own style!
And since TV tray tops are 100% flat, they are excellent candidates for stencils. Simply position, then stencil!
Visit all Funky Junk’s Old Sign Stencils HERE
- TV trays are flat, which are perfect for stencils
- designs are already done, just add paint!
- stencils offer professional outcomes
- easy to replicate to repair, make-to-gift or resell
I personally love using stencils on TV trays because the design is already done. All you need to do next is add paint!
Find stencils for TV trays
How to stencil
Stenciling is very easy, however the most important part to remember is to ensure you stencil with a brush that feels dry. This helps reduce the chance of paint bleeding underneath the stencil.
- load stencil brush with paint
- remove most paint until brush feels dry
- position stencil
- tap or swirl brush through stencil for desired effect
Learn many more tips on How to stencil from THIS POST
Paint and Stain for TV trays
And of course, you’ll also require some kind of DIY paint to get the looks you desire for your TV trays!
My personal favorite is Fusion Mineral Paint. It’s a quality DIY paint that doesn’t require a topcoat unless you’re desiring more protection or a different effect, and offers a very durable finish once it’s cured.
- clean your piece with Fusion’s phosphate-free TSP
- scuff sand to create tooth for the paint to adhere to
- sand more aggressively if you are removing previous paint or stain
- paint surface, sanding in between coats if more than one coat is required
- stencil on bare wood or previously painted surface
Protecting with Stain and Finishing Oil
Fusion’s Stain and Finishing Oils, often referred to as SFO are exceptional! This stain offers tone and a built-in top coat which creates a floor-quality finish, so you can be sure it will protect any table top surface from home use wear and tear and beverage spills perfectly!
One of my favorite features about their stains is that you can use them indoors due to their minimal smell. It’s always a good idea to crack open a window for fresh air ventilation, however I cannot use any other stains on the market inside my home like I can with this one.
- coat surface with stain using a cloth or brush
- wipe back stain to remove excess
- add another coat the next day if more protection or sheen is desired
- allow to dry overnight before using
Best TV tray makeovers
So here’s a few TV tray makeovers I’ve done myself. You’ll also find a few ideas from some of my favorite blogging friends at the end of this post!
Houndstooth TV tray
A good houndstooth pattern offers a classic, upscale look to a TV tray! This would make a pretty, permanent side table beside any sofa.
View video above to watch the Houndstooth stencil process!
Argyle TV tray
An Argyle pattern looks complicated to make, however in this case, it’s a breeze thanks to layering two stencils to get this look!
This Argyle pattern is painted in black and white, and stained to showcase the wonderful warmth of wood tone. The stately black legs finish this TV tray up perfectly!
Argyle TV tray Video
View above to see a short video of this TV tray stencil process!
Classic Penny Tile TV tray
If you too love the classic look of Penny Tile, here’s a fun makeover which will really ramp up your TV tray!
A grey grout color is painted first, then stenciled in white Penny Tiles, finished off with black tile designs.
And since the legs were already wood, I felt they added warmth for a special twist! They’d also look gorgeous in black.
Penny Tile is a 2-part stencil that comes with tile design templates so you can create flowers, borders, patterns and more!
Stenciled Buffalo Check TV tray
Don’t want to rest your coffee on your lap while snuggled up on the sofa watching your favorite shows or movies?
That’s where your TV tray in the living room comes in and this round, in a super chic large black Buffalo Checked design! Isn’t it pretty on the natural wood top as-is?
The Buffalo Check stencils are very detailed, but boy does it deliver, giving you this intricate pattern that is actually effortless to create thanks to a 1-piece stencil!
Buffalo Check How-to Video
View above to see how easy it is to stencil using Buffalo Check!
View many other Buffalo Checked projects HERE
Coffee-themed TV tray
And here’s an added twist! Add a coffee stencil on top in white so the letters pop, then cover the works with a wood stain to tone the background down once again!
Isn’t this stained Buffalo Check Coffee design gorgeous? The wood stain also adds extra durability for beverage cups too!
Dual coffee TV tray with Hot cocoa serving tray topper
Since we tend to drink our coffee everyday and the Christmas season is much more limited, here’s how to create a coffee-themed TV tray look in black and wood grain, along with a reclaimed wood Christmas H0t Cocoa tray designed to fit on top during the Christmas season!
Fun twist: add handles to the the square Hot Cocoa tray to use separately
Other stenciled TV tray makeovers
And here’s a few of my blogging friends that have accomplished some very unique and pretty TV tray projects as well!
This delightful tray wears a stenciled Penny Tile design in black, white and grey neutrals that allow those white flower tiles to pop!
Have more than one TV tray? Here’s how to coordinate them using plaid and buffalo check patterns! Simply choose the same color tones to get this vibe! Love the white background, such a fresh vibe.
This clever TV tray take is all about vacation directional signs! This tutorial shares how to get the look of individual panels on a flat surface. Adore how the white letters pop off the grey background.
As you can see, any of these amazing TV tray makeover ideas are beautiful and so customizable, making your dining purposes or other home uses much more upscale than what the TV trays use to look like!
So don’t overlook plain foldable tables next round… now that you know what they CAN look like with a little of your own creativity added to yours!
Are you a TV tray collector too? What would you like to do to yours?
Check out many other stenciled projects to make HERE