I’m all about little vignettes lately.  Specifically designed areas of decor that tell a story.  I don’t know that my attempts at vignettes necessarily tell a story, but I think they give off a vibe or feeling of warmth and welcome.

I feel warm and welcome anyways.

The trend right now seems to be trays – tiered trays, breakfast trays, wicker/woven trays, mirrored trays and of course wood trays.

People with an eye for interior design are taking these various trays and creating gorgeous tablescapes and vignettes – and I’m enough of a “wanna-be” that I had to join in the fun.

Trays aren’t overly expensive, but if you’re looking to try your hand at a small DIY project, these ottoman trays are a great jumping off point.

You will need:

  • 1 x 16″ board – you’ll only need 18″ of it, so no need to buy a long piece unless you want to make several trays (like I did)
  • 1 x 3 board – again, one will suffice unless you plan to make multiple ottoman trays
  • wood clamps
  • wood glue
  • kreg jig and pocket screws OR finishing nails
  • sandpaper
  • stain
  • varnish


  • 2 pieces of 1×3″ cut to 19 1/4″ long  (we will cut angles afterwards)
  • 2 pieces of 1×3″ cut to 16 1/2″ long  (we will cut angles afterwards)
  • 1 piece of your 1 x 16 cut to 18″ long

Start off by cutting your (already cut) 1×3″ pieces at a 45 degree angle on each end.  One side of the wood will be longer and one will be shorter – so your angles will be 45 degrees on one end and 135 degrees on the other.  To visualize – since I don’t have a photo – hold your hands up in front of you, thumbs facing you.  Bend your wrists so that the fingers are now pointing outwards (towards your shoulders) on both hands.  That’s how your angles should look on all four pieces of wood.

I built three trays for an upcoming Favourite Things party, but also to try out using 45 degree angles and to see how to best adhere these trays together.

For the most “solid” ottoman tray, you’d drill pocket holes around the base of your 1×16 with your Kreg Jig – 2 per side – and then glue and screw your side pieces on.

The downside of this method is that the screw heads might scratch the surface of your table top unless you cover the bottom with felt.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

An easier way would be to glue your side boards to the base of the ottoman tray (with glue between the 45 degree angles as well), clamp into place and then use a nail gun or finishing nails at the corners and along the base to hold in place.

For a clean finish, turn one of your finishing nails upside down, place it on top of one of the nails already laid in the board and give it a few taps with a hammer.  This will countersink your nail heads and give you space to put a bit of filler in to cover them up.

I’m not going to lie to you – I had a terrible time lining up my 45 degree angles.  A friend told me that my mitre saw wasn’t set to a true 45, so I’m going to go with that excuse and not (what is more likely) that the user was useless.

Don’t worry if your 45’s aren’t exactly perfect – that’s why God invented wood filler.  Choose a wood filler that will accept stain for the best results and cram that stuff into any little gaps you find, as well as the countersunk nail holes.

Let dry completely and sand the entire tray smooth.

Now for the easy part – apply your stain.  Follow the instructions on the container for best results – but usually you apply, let sit for about 15 minutes and wipe off with a clean, dust-free cloth.  Re-apply a second coat if you want a darker finish.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

Because I made three trays, I was able to bring out a couple of stains; two of these are Minwax Special Walnut and the third is Minwax Dark Walnut.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

Once your stain is completely dry, say overnight, you are ready to apply your varnish to protect the finish.  I went with the Varathane Triple thick because it’s my favourite, and because it has a slight yellow tinge which warms up the wood even further.

Let dry completely.  If the finish is a bit rough, or you want an added layer of protection, lightly sand the entire ottoman tray with 220 or 320 grit sandpaper and recoat with varnish again.  Let dry completely.

Because these trays may end up on someone’s wood or glass table, I wanted to make sure there was a buffer between the wood and the surface.  You can buy felt protectors at the hardware store, or you can use double-sided tape and cut pieces of craft felt and stick into place.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

That’s it!  Style your ottoman tray into your own little vignette and enjoy the fruits of your labour!

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

The cost per ottoman tray is going to depend on the type of wood you buy and whether or not you have stain and varnish on hand, or have to go and buy some.

In my case the wood came to $16.50 and the rest I had in my workshop – so each tray (two 1x3x96’s and one 1x16x72 make 4 ottoman trays) cost about $4.13.  MUCH less than the $25-$45 they are selling for at HomeSense.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

You can purchase handles to attach to the outside, or cut strips of leather and screw them to either end to use as handles.  You can drill holes and create handles right in the sides, or thread them with thick rope for a more nautical look.

I went without handles – mainly because I wrenched my wrist once using a spade bit and I was too nervous to try again – but we’ll say that I chose not to because they are gorgeous without.

DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

It’s going to be hard to give these up!  I may have to make a few more to scatter through my own house!DIY Ottoman Tray - a great beginner project

Have a great one!

Too funny - baby onesie


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