Tiered Tray Styling 101

So the two most common questions I get (outside of “Will you please come decorate my house?” ← huge compliment when y’all ask me that btw) are around styling tiered trays & styling shelves.  So, while I was doing a product shoot for one of our trays the other day, I had an idea to put a blog post together with my tray styling methods.  I figured this way y’all could just refer back to it anytime you need it! ❤️


Tiered trays…super on trend these days as far as farmhouse decor goes.  The great thing about them is, if they don’t look super cute, nobody really cares 😂 (it’s not like you’ll get criticized for having an ugly tiered tray), lol.  BUT…if they’re done well, PEOPLE LOVE THEM!!! They can add such fun, flair, & personality to your space & they’re awesome for parties & entertaining! (Here are a few shots of trays I’ve styled in the past)


Fun right?  Styling these things is one of my fave “decor” things to do!  Okay, so where do we start?  My suggestion…start with a blank canvas.

  • Make sure you take all your goodies off your tray & start with empty tiers.  (Sounds silly but it makes a difference for me!)
  • Next pick your “theme” or color scheme, any focal points/pieces you know you want to feature, & gather it all up so you can see it together.  At this point, get rid of any pieces that won’t “go”.  (It helps to see everything together to visualize the overall look/feel.)
Tiered Tray Starting Point

Make sure to start with a blank slate!

So in this photo you can see that I have a pretty good collection of anchor items (or everyday items) on the right side of the pic.  These are my go-to’s basically.  I use these guys in nearly all of my tray styling themes.  The greens may vary a little seasonally, but other than that, same ole same! (Yay! No need to buy all new items every time you wanna change it up!)

On the left side of the pic, I’ve chosen two different themes to show y’all!  One is a Coffee/Espresso theme, and the other a Moscow Mule theme!


Okay, so. Technique.  Believe it or not, I’m not a top to bottom or bottom to top decorator.  I do it in stages.  Bigger/focal pieces going first, then the smaller details, and then the filler & finishing touches! Here’s what I mean.

Tiered Tray Styling Step 1

Adding the focal point

Starting with the Coffee Bar theme.  I knew I wanted these ADORABLE little espresso cups to be one of the focal points of the tray; but because they are small, I had to do something to make sure they stood out.  So I grabbed one of my mini stands (the one I used here is barn roof tin) & arranged a few little cups with their matching saucers on it.  This provided the cups/saucers height & brought them to the front of the design!  You could use whatever little stands you have lying around (get creative)!  I chose tin in this example because I just really love mixing textures, & with the tray already giving us the wood element, I wanted to change it up for the focal point!

You can also see I added the hobnail planters (another fave of mine) in this first stage.  These items are pretty big so I need to go ahead & place them (to make sure there’s room, & also to start creating balance on each tier).  From there, I can fill in some of the empty spaces.  Now, while I’m a huge fan of balance in my decor/designs, I typically don’t shoot for perfect symmetry.  So you’ll see I alternated the placement of the hobnail planters & greenery so that there’s continuity, but it’s not matchy matchy on each level.

In Stage 2, I add the smaller details & filler.  In the photo below you’ll see that I added cupcake stands as filler for the top tier; a wooden stand with a candle as the smaller details on the middle tier; & on the bottom, more greenery (in the back),  the mini creamer pitcher, & another stand with a stack of cups & saucers.

Adding the final details!

Finishing Touches

I wrapped things up by adding this “home” sign as a finishing touch!  Now, while some may consider this to be a focal point, I actually wanted mine to kinda blend in & be tucked a little crooked.  For that look I had to make sure & style the decor behind it & then just tuck the sign in however it would fit.  Hopefully that make sense! (I typically style my signs last because I want them to blend into the decor & not just be facing forward all straight & boring—depends on the sign of course, lol).

So here’s the finished product! (I’ll show the Moscow Mule theme next, don’t worry 😉)

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Coffee/Espresso Theme

What do y’all think?  Pretty simple right?!

Okay, so now let me show you another themed tray using all the same base pieces & just a few different accent pieces!


Again, we start with our blank slate!  I cleared everything off & gathered my items!

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Now, you’ll notice here that this pitcher I want to use doesn’t fit….booo!!!  Believe it or not, I showed you this for a reason, lol.  Sometimes you’re going to want to add something that doesn’t fit.  That’s okay!  If I was really hosting a Moscow Mule party I would still need to use this pitcher, & I’d definitely want to incorporate it somehow.  So…just move it off to the side for now, & we’ll use it at the end! You’ll see 😉!

So, here we go continuing with Step 1.  Adding the focal points & large items.

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Now we move on to Step 2 with the smaller items & filler.

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See how I’m positioning the greenery to kinda poke through the decor?

Make sure you’re arranging your items so that you can see a little bit of everything, but that the focal points stay towards the front.  Don’t bury them under the greenery.  You’ll also notice I’m mixing metals here (copper & tin).  As long as they don’t clash I say go for it!  It adds more visual appeal!  Styling trays is all about mixing & matching, trial & error.  If you add a piece & something about it just isn’t “right”, move it around, change it’s height by adding a stand, or if you need to, remove it all together & swap it out for something else.  There’s no “right way” to do any of this (which is great because you’ll never do it wrong 😂)!

Now for Stage 3, the final touches (or the fun factor as I call it 🤓🤓)!

If you’ve been following me for a minute, you know I LOVE labels 🤓!!  Food labels, place-cards, wine & cheese picks….seriously, I’ll put a little mini sign on anything (ps. I love all things mini).  I just love how much fun & character they add.  Plus, it makes it look like you put a lot more effort in than you actually had to! #bonus I’m telling you, your guests will love them! They’re always a huge hit!

So to add this whimsy to my tray, I grabbed a few mini chalkboard signs & just scribbled a few words! Sometimes I’ll do a little doodle or two just for fun!  And Voila!  That’s it!! Easy peasy!

Ps.  Anyone who throws parties should SERIOUSLY consider investing in these mini tree trunk place-card holders!!! They’re super cheap (you could even DIY them) & I literally use them at every party/get together!  I’ve gotten my money’s worth & 10x more!! I LOVE them!! (I’m going to do a mini blog series on parties so you’ll see how often I’ve used them lol.) I’ll link them for y’all below! 

So here’s the big reveal!!

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Moscow Mule Theme

Now, we’re not TOTALLY done yet.  Remember up there ↑ when I told you we’d save our Mule pitcher for later?  Well it’s time for us to use it now!  I still want to incorporate it here & tie it in with the overall feel for the tray.  So, I just grabbed another smaller serving tray I had lying around, & decided to use that as an extension to the big tray! See what I mean below!

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You’ll notice the hobnail planter again (told ya, I use that thing everywhere).  I added that for continuity since I have it’s partner over there on the tiered tray.  Again, balance without being too matchy matchy!

So here’s how it all turned out together!

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So….what do y’all think?!?!  Was this helpful at all?? Do you guys have any tips/tricks that you use when styling your trays?! I would LOVE y’alls feedback/comments/thoughts!! Please share them below!! I love learning about other people’s creative process!

Let me know!  Talk soon buddies!

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