Tray chic

Use a picture frame to make a tray

Linda Turner Griepentrog / For The Bulletin /

Published Oct 29, 2013 at 05:00AM

There's nothing quite as elegant as being served food on a tray— whether you're lounging in bed during a leisurely weekend, watching your favorite soap on TV or dining on the patio far from the kitchen.

Serving trays abound at your favorite home stores, but it's more fun to make a tray and personalize it.

Start with a good size photo frame. The frame itself can be wood or plastic, but look for one with a glass surface as opposed to plastic, which can melt and distort if a warm dish is placed on it. Plastic may also not support as much weight as the rigid glass covering. Thrift stores are a great place to look for old frames with character. Those with worn personae can be easily spray painted or hand painted for a quick update. Choose a frame that has somewhat of a flat area for mounting handles.

You'll also need two handles — look in the cabinet hardware section of a home improvement store. Choose handles in proportion to the frame size and theme. Handles come in wood, metal, plastic and glass, so choose something to go with the character of the frame and your planned embellishment.

Take the depth measurement of the frame with you when purchasing handles, and note how that compares with the supplied screw length.

If the supplied screws are too long, purchase shorter ones so that the handles fit snugly against the frame and there is no extra screw length on the tray underside.

Since the glass surface is see-through, the area underneath is prime for personalization. Choose a favorite fabric, heirloom linens, beautiful paper (perhaps wallpaper or stationery); a collage of photos, old jewelry (flat) or foreign coins left from a trip; newspaper clippings, colorful magazine pages or comics. Whatever you place under glass can't be too thick, unless you select a shadow-box frame that has more space between the glass and the backing. Most picture frames are assembled so that it's easy to change out the contents, so don't overlook seasonal items.

For tools, a small drill and appropriate size bit are needed to penetrate the frame. Cabinet handles often come with information about the hole size needed for mounting. Underneath the mounting screws, you may need some felt to protect the table from any protrusions and some glue to keep it in place.

Getting started

Take apart the picture frame and get rid of any mat board that came with it, unless you plan to reuse it. Set aside the glass and the cardboard backing panel.

Attach handles

Center the handles along opposite sides of the frame. Determine the handle locations and mark on the frame, noting the spacing recommended for the mounting holes and the suggested hole size. Drill the holes straight down into the frame at the desired location.

Handles can be screwed in from either the top or the underside, depending on the style. It may be necessary to shorten the screws or purchase new ones, so screws don't extend below the frame surface.

Glue small felt circles over any underside screw extension to protect tabletops and laps when using the tray.

Decorating

Place your chosen item(s) on the backing cardboard insert. Glue them to the cardboard, and if the entire surface isn't covered, use a backing paper under the items so that the cardboard doesn't show through the collage.

If you're working with fabric, you can cut it to the size of the cardboard insert, or cut it 1 inch larger on all sides and wrap it. If you opt for the latter, stretch the fabric tautly over the board and glue it to the underside. Cover the back with an additional layer of cardboard or paper.

When the insert is dry, assemble the frame by placing the glass into the frame first. Double check for fingerprints and clean the glass if needed.

Insert the cardboard face down onto the glass. On the frame underside, use the brackets, pins or clamps to hold the center in place.

To care for the tray, simply wipe it clean with a damp cloth. Do not immerse it in water.