Easy rustic wood crate TV trays makeover (for small spaces)

TV trays are so very handy, but they are usually very plain. This thrifty TV trays makeover goes the rustic route! With a simple stencil and wood strips technique, create the look of a wood crate in just a few minutes!

TV trays are so very handy, but they are usually very plain. This thrifty TV trays makeover goes the rustic route! With a simple stencil and wood strips technique, create the look of a wood crate in just a few minutes!

Can the world use another unique TV tray makeover? Why yes, I do think it can, because this one will most certainly appeal to all those who love rustic decorating or wooden crates!

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I’m no stranger to folding table TV tray transformations…

Where to buy TV trays and what kind:


The most popular types of TV trays I gravitate to are those made of solid wood. They can easily be found at most thrift stores or even garage sales. Most TV trays are generally always super price efficient, which makes them a perfect candidate to try new looks!

Or you can check TV tray availability on Amazon HERE for a new purchase.

Ways to use TV trays:


You can’t have too many folding-TV-trays for small spaces! The dimensions make them perfect for extra storage as side tables while spending time on the a couch for those late evening snacks or first cup of coffee) in the living room or bedrooms, however they are swapped out a lot since they are so handy to have everywhere:

  • laptop or tablet table
  • side table beside a bed or sofa
  • temporary office desk extension
  • plant stand
  • kids art or puzzle table
  • breakfast trays
  • remove the top to create a removable tray lap table, breakfast tray or to protect furniture tops
  • cut the legs to create adjustable heights

So it should come to no surprise that I’ve transformed many TV trays in different custom ways. Here’s a few of my favs I use every single day…

Argyle stenciled TV tray

Past TV tray transformations:


Penny Tile TV tray transformation

Argyle pattern TV tray makeover

See 12+ TV tray makeovers in THIS post.

Aren’t they fun?! I just adore the challenge of thinking up a new TV tray design winner for a given space.

Since I had a spare tray in my stash, I felt inclined to create a new TV tray makeover with a super rustic twist that would appeal to those who adore antique crates… and I’m so in LOVE with the results! Plus it couldn’t be easier to do. 

Here’s what I did!

Easy rustic wood crate TV trays makeover


Supplies you’ll need:


Solid wood TV tray

Apricots antique crate stencil

Cast Iron DIY paint by Fusion Mineral Paint (get 10% off HERE)

Furniture Wax by Fusion Mineral Paint (get 10% off HERE)

Stencil brush (I prefer dome-tipped stencil brushes like THIS for the best results)

Small paint brush

Masking tape

Simple Green (to clean stencils)

2 cedar strips or scrap wood cut to the depth of the TV tray

Cordless drill (I LOVE my makita)

Variable speed orbital sander (this BOSCH is a boss!)

Visit a complete list of all my fav DIY tools I recommend HERE

wood tv tray before

Choose a TV tray


1. Choose a solid wood TV tray with a bare wood top if possible.

I love solid wood TV trays like the one above. 100% wood grain gives you loads of decorating options where you can leave parts of the woodgrain exposed without having to strip off paint.

However don’t bypass a good solid wood TV tray if it’s already painted or has a finish on it. One can paint it out similar to what I did with THIS penny tile TV tray design.

You’ll just want to make sure it’s fairly sturdy. Or one with ability to beef up the sturdiness with extra bracing, or like I did by simply replacing a couple of screws.

Wood crate tv tray makeover

Prepping the TV tray top


2. Clean the TV tray so it’s free from dust, dirt or grease.

I like to use Fusion’s TSP Alternative (get 10% off HERE). You pour a capful into water, then it can be used to clean furniture with a rag without even having to wear gloves!

3. Once TV tray is completely dry, sand where needed or desired.

Scuff-sanding is recommended if you wish to repaint a shiny surface.

However I ended up deep sanding the entire top of the tray to get a fresh, brand new start! The TV tray had yellowed over time and sanding only took a few minutes and brought up the natural wood tone to brand new status. 

Various prep and sanding products:


Sanding sponges at 10% off

Pads for sanding at 10% off

Tack cloths

Variable speed orbital sander

Apricots antique crate stencil by Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils

View Apricots antique crate stencil HERE

Check out may other crate-styled stencils HERE

Where to find crate stencils


4. Choose a wood crate style stencil that fits the TV tray top.

Since I was going for a wood crate look, I chose the Apricots antique crate stencil you can find HERE. Another similar choice is the Peaches antique crate stencil HERE.

These stencils are inspired by actual antique crates with accurate markings of lbs, dates and other fun details that help to achieve an authentic crate look in a jiffy!

Fusion Mineral Paint in Cast Iron for a TV tray makeover

Check out Cast Iron by Fusion Mineral Paint HERE (and get 10% off)

Deciding on a paint-of-choice


5. Select a DIY paint and colour of choice.

The paint colour I chose this round is Cast Iron by Fusion Mineral Paint. I love this tone because it’s slightly softer than a strong black which works great for an aged crate lettering look.

Fusion is a DIY paint that goes on buttery smooth, and toughens up to a very durable finish once it’s cured. And dries very quickly! We are hard on furniture, so this fabulous all-in-one matte finish paint works well for us!

Get Fusion Mineral Paint for 10% off


Visit the entire line of Fusion colours and products HERE (and get 10% off!)

Read my own Fusion Mineral Paint review with all my favorite products listed in THIS POST.

stenciling a wood crate tv tray with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils

How to stencil the top to resemble a crate


6. Position the stencil in the middle of the TV tray top. Hold in place with masking tape all along the top edge to create a door hinge effect, so you can lift stencil to check progress.

7. Load a dome-tipped stencil brush with paint, then remove most of the paint onto a rag (or like I do on a piece of reclaimed wood!) until the brush tip feels dry.

I like dome-tipped stencil brushes like THESE best because the rounded bristles appear to offer smoother coverage.

8. Tap or swirl paint through the stencil for the desired effect.

I choose to use a light touch so the lettering didn’t look too brand new.

Tip: Be sure to check out the video at the end of this post to watch the process in action!

stenciling a wood crate tv tray with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils

9. Carefully lift the stencil as to not smudge the lettering underneath. Allow to dry.

10. If you clean stencils, it’s recommended to clean them right away before the paint dries completely.

How to clean stencils:


  1. Place stencil in a paint-friendly sink.
  2. Spray the front and back of the stencil with Simple Green (find it HERE)
  3. Allow to sit a few moments.
  4. Lay stencil down, then wipe the front and back of the stencil until clean. The paint will come off very easily!
  5. Rinse with clear water, then hang to dry.

distressing stenciled lettering on a wood crate tv tray

View a Bosch variable speed sander HERE

11. Once paint is completely dry, lightly sand to further distress lettering if desired.

Since I wanted a worn crate look, I turned down the speed dial to #1 on the Bosch variable speed sander, then went over the lettering very gently until I got the desired effect.

If you don’t yet have a variable speed sander in your stash, I highly recommend it. You have so much more control over what you sand and how. I rarely pick up my 1-speed sander after getting this gem!

distressing stenciled lettering on a wood crate tv tray

And just in case you noticed the painted table legs, I’ll cover that further below!

waxing a top coat on a wood crate tv tray makeover

Locate Fusion Mineral Paint Furniture waxes HERE (with 10% off)

12. Protect the raw wood and lettering with a top coat of sorts.

I choose to use Fusion’s Furniture Wax in clear, with a Lavender scent.

This is the only wax product I have ever come across that offers a restoration hardware type of finish where you can barely tell there’s wax on the wood!

The wax will deepen the wood tone until it dries, then in most cases, the tone nearly disappears while leaving the protection you desire. Always test a spot before applying to ensure it offers the results you’re after.

What to top coat fully painted surfaces:


However I highly recommend top coating a fully painted surface with Stain and Finishing Oil. It offers  floor-quality durability, is low odor and quick to dry. This is what I used on both the penny tile tray and argyle tray.

How to apply furniture wax:


  1. Ensure surface is free of dust.
  2. Dip a clean rag into the wax.
  3. Apply the wax in a circular motion until covered.
  4. Buff the excess off.
  5. Apply a 2nd coat if more protection is desired.

Dismantling a TV tray to paint

Dismantling the table legs


So let’s paint up those legs next!

13. Remove any brace or apparatus so you can lift the table legs for easier painting.

This TV tray had a metal brace that was easy to unscrew. Other trays may simply collapse easily. 

painting TV tray legs with Fusion Mineral Paint Cast Iron

Check out Cast Iron by Fusion Mineral Paint HERE (and get 10% off)

Painting the table legs


14. Tape off any areas you don’t wish for your trim paint to get on.

I like to use painter’s tape for easy removal, since it doesn’t leave any sticky residue on the wood surface.

15. Stretch the table legs in an upright position, then with a small paint brush, paint in long, smooth strokes to avoid brush strokes.

The coverage with Cast Iron is SO good, I didn’t even need a 2nd coat!

However you can paint another coat after about 15 minutes if needed. Then lightly sand with high grit sandpaper in between coats for a smoother finish if desired.

Attaching wood strappings to a wood crate tv tray makeover

Adding crate details


The tray looked cute already, however I decided to push the crate vibe further by adding some accessories. Two strips of wood and a few random screws did the trick, which has the tray resembling a wood crate end. And it’s easy to do!

16. Add crate trim by cutting down two small strips of wood to the same depth of the tray top. Wax the wood so it looks the same as the tray.

17. Position the strips into place, then screw to the top from underneath the tray so the screws don’t show.

And then a funny thing happened. There were holes in the wood already, so I decided to just go ahead and add screws for extra detail! So if you’re doing that, you can simply attach the strips from the top. It’s much easier!

Ready to see how cute it turned out?

plain solid wood tv tray before

From an orangy-toned grubby plain and boring TV tray table before…

TV trays are so very handy, but they are usually very plain. This thrifty TV trays makeover goes the rustic route! With a simple stencil and wood strips technique, create the look of a wood crate in just a few minutes!

The finished crate styled TV tray


To the freshened-up wood crate TV trays makeover! Isn’t it sharp?!

It’s certainly got a vibe with a personality to match that looks amazing in my living room.

The randomly placed screws on the wood strips added just a little more crate authenticity without going overboard. And it’s still easy to wipe clean!

Video of wood crate TV tray makeover



Watch the short video above to see a few steps of the TV tray process!

TV trays are so very handy, but they are usually very plain. This thrifty TV trays makeover goes the rustic route! With a simple stencil and wood strips technique, create the look of a wood crate in just a few minutes!

An end table with a lifestyle all its own.

NOW it’s coffee time… wood crate-style!

Have a TV tray that could use a quick face lift? Think you’ll try this style?

Wood crate TV trays makeover with Funky Junk's Old Sign Stencils

Easy wood crate TV trays makeover (for small spaces)

Funky Junk Interiors
TV trays are so very handy, but they are usually very plain. This thrifty TV trays makeover goes the rustic route! With a simple stencil and wood strips technique, create the look of a wood crate in just a few minutes!


Prep the TV tray

  • Clean with TSP Alternative, then allow to dry.
    TSP Alternative by Fusion Mineral Paint
  • Scuff sand tray and legs, or sand down to bare wood if wood grain finish is desired.

How to stencil a wood crate look on TV tray

  • Select a crate-styled stencil. This tutorial uses Apricots Antique Crate stencil.
    Apricots crate stencil
  • Position stencil on center of TV tray, held in place with masking tape.
    masking tape
  • Select a soft black paint to mimic a weathered crate. This tutorial uses Cast Iron by Fusion Mineral Paint.
    Fusion Mineral Paint
  • Dip stencil brush into paint, then remove most paint onto a rag until brush feels dry.
    dome tip stencil brush
  • Tap or swirl stencil brush through stencil for desired effect.
  • Once dry, turn variable speed sander to #1, then lightly sand over lettering to further distress if desired.
  • Top coat tray with Fusion Mineral Paint Furniture Wax in clear.
    Furniture Wax by Fusion

Adding wood strips

  • Cut two wood strips to depth of TV tray top.
  • Sand, then wax strips.
  • Attach to the tv tray with screws, from either top or under tray.

Painting tray legs

  • Clean and scuff sand.
  • Paint Cast Iron onto the tray legs with a small paint brush.


Visit full tutorial plus video on Funky Junk Interiors at:
Did you try this tutorial?Share it on Instagram and tag @funkyjunkinteriors and include #funkyjunkinteriors so we can check it out!

Visit other unique TV tray makeovers HERE

Check out many other crate stencil designs HERE

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Categories: All Cool Projects, DIY, Furniture, Junk Drawer, Old Sign Stencils, Reclaimed wood projects
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One thought on “Easy rustic wood crate TV trays makeover (for small spaces)

  1. I wish I had your knack for stencilling, Donna. I always struggle with the dreaded bleed-through/bleed-under (whatever the technical word is for not getting clean crisp lines). Thank goodness for sandpaper 🙂

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