How to Style a Tiered Tray

Tiered trays have become a very popular way of decorating, especially in small spaces. They are great for adding color to an area that isn’t large enough for a complete vignette.

Styled tiered tray options - How to Style a Tiered Tray

Many people think creating a tiered tray is hard but I’m going to show you just how easy it is. Themed tiered trays are the perfect way to make great home décor. Follow the steps below and soon you’ll be creating decorations for each holiday and season.

Step 1 – Choose a Tiered Tray

The first step is obviously getting a tier tray. This sounds simple but can become overwhelming if you let it. I recommend deciding on a general style before you start looking. You should also consider how many layers you want on your tray. The most common trays are 2 tier or 3 tier but you can do whatever you want.

Do you want modern industrial? I have one tiered tray that has metal shelves and pipes for connectors. Here it is decorated for St. Patrick’s Day.

St Patrick's Day Tiered Tray

Would you rather have something more airy but still somewhat modern? This Valentine’s display is on a 3-tier tray with thin oak shelves and metal wrapped supports. The thin shelves give it a lighter feel and the metal center adds a modern touch.

Valentine's Day Tiered Tray

Maybe you prefer a more rustic wood style. If that’s the case, a chunky wooden tray might be more your style. Here is a walnut 2-tiered tray that I have all decked out for fall.

Fall Pumpkins Tiered Tray

The farmhouse white style might be more in tune with you. This white wooden rectangle tiered tray would be a great option. I have it decorated up for winter here.

Winter Tiered Tray

These are only a few options. I’ve curated a collection of tier trays for you to look at below.

You can also create your own tier tray. I know a lot of people who have used platters with glasses, vases, or candlesticks between them. I love these and it’s on my list to create my own soon.

Step 2 – Choose a Theme and Décor Pieces

Now come the display items. If you thought you had choices in the first two steps the options are actually endless here.

First, you’ll want to choose a theme. There are many different themes to choose from. You could use a color scheme as your theme or a holiday or season makes a great theme. Whatever you decide it’s time to start collecting items to use as display pieces on your tray.

You probably have items around your house that you can use. Collect items of varying heights and weights to help you maintain balance in your tray.

A collection of items that I use to when styling tier trays.

Make sure you have at least one focal piece for each layer of your tray. In addition, you’ll want several accent pieces and filler items.

If you don’t have enough things around your home, you can take a fun shopping trip to find options for your tier trays. Great places to go are JoAnns, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Target or Walmart. Another great place to look is thrift stores. The cute salt and pepper shakers that you can find in almost any shape make great additions to your tier tray décor.

You can also do simple craft projects to fill in your tray. I love using mini wooden signs on my trays because they are such a versatile item and make great fillers. Here’s a few different ones I’ve made.

Mini wood signs for styling a tiered tray.

You can also create a variety of paper craft items using your Cricut. There are lots of files in Cricut Access to make 3d elements that you could use in a tier tray.

You can also use other crafts. My Valentine’s tray had some yarn wrapped hearts. On my winter tray there are snowflake cutouts. The Christmas tray had wooden 3d trees. And on my Easter tray there were several different types of eggs.

Crafts that can be used on a tiered tray including, wooden snowflakes, paper flowers, yarn pumpkin, 3d Christmas tree, decoupage eggs, and yarn wrapped hearts.

Step 3 – Chose a Base for Your Tiered Tray

The next step in creating a beautiful display on your tier tray is to create a base layer. By putting a base layer down, you help soften any gaps that might end up existing between your larger decorative items.

A base layer also gives you a place to hide any risers you might need. Risers make it easier to create a pleasing aesthetic with varying heights but it’s not always easy to find a riser that matches the décor you are using.

Just as there are lots of options for tier trays, there a plenty of options for this layer.

Greenery Options

An easy greenery option is a candle ring. Cut an opening in the ring and wrap it around the center.

You can also you small pieces of just about any greenery you want. My Christmas tray had holly berries and evergreen boughs as the base layer.

Christmas greenery on a styled tiered tray.

For my fall tray this year, I chose some acorns, twigs and berries.

A tiered tray base of fall nuts, wood pieces, and berries.

Hopefully this shows you that you can be creative with the types of greenery you use.

Fabric Options

Another good base filler is fabric. I’ve been sewing all my life, so I have lots of scrap fabric. If you don’t have a fabric collection, pick up some quilting fabrics. These fabrics are inexpensive, and you’ll have lots of options to choose from. A quarter of a yard is usually plenty for a tray.

Whatever fabric you use, try to choose something that is long enough to wrap around your layer and about 1-1/2 times the depth of one side of your tray. This will give you enough to create folds and pockets as needed.

I used the fabric option on this winter décor tier tray. You’ll notice that I did different types of fabric on different layers to create some variety.

Two different fabric layers being used for a base when styling a tiered tray.

Unique Options

You really can let your imagination run wild when it comes to base fillers.

For my Valentine’s tray, I used the love message candy hearts for my base layer.

Candy Valentines hearts being used for a base when styling a tiered tray.

What’s great is that you can mix base fillers. You can put greenery on one layer and fabric on another. Or, you could add some sprigs of greenery on top of a fabric layer. This is YOUR tray. Be creative!

Step 4 – Assemble Your Tiered Tray

Now it’s time to have fun and use your creativity. There is no wrong way to put a tray together. You really do have a blank slate to work with.

You will need to decide if your tray will be viewable from all sides or just from one or two sides. This is dependent on where you are going to display your tier tray.

Sometimes I put my tier tray on our island or coffee table, so it is visible from all sides. Most of the time however mine sits on the kitchen table against the wall, so I only have to worry about two sides.

Also consider what is behind your tier tray. You might have your tray sitting against a wall but if there is a mirror behind it you need to decorate the back too.

I usually collect more items than I will need to decorate my tray so that I have options. That also means my trays usually don’t look the same from one year to the next.

Start with the larger, anchor pieces. Try to put at least one focal point on each shelf. Also, try to alternate which side of the tray that item is on. For example, right on the top tier and left on the bottom shelf.

A great tall item I use on a lot of my trays is a mason jar that has been tinted to match filled with some patterned straws. Here’s an example of that on my Halloween tray.

A tinted mason jar filled with straws being used for as a tall item on a tiered tray.

Here you can see my Valentine’s tray with only the anchor items and base filler in place.

Anchor items being used for as the start of a Valentine's Day tiered tray.

Now, just start filling in the empty spaces with your medium and small items. Place things, move them, remove some, just keep going until you are happy with the overall design.

Step 5 – Final Touches

For the final step, I recommend adding something to connect the individual tiers.

You can use fairy lights like the sunflower shaped ones in this bees tiered tray.

Sunflower lights being used for to link the tiers in a bee themed tiered tray.

Another great option is wood bead or other garlands. Here are some examples of that.

A variety of garlands that can be used to link tiers when styling a tier tray.

Or just hang something off an edge so that it fills in the upper space of the tier below like the mittens in this example.

Wooden mittens being used to link tiers when styling a tier tray.

Now, Go Decorate!!!!!

Now that you have the basics, start having fun by creating beautiful tier trays for your home décor! I know that once you get started you won’t want to quit. You can put tiered trays in almost any area of your home.

You can create trays that are appropriate in your décor year-round, or you can create trays for individual seasons and holidays. I usually do the latter and change my tray out every 4-6 weeks.

I have a lot of fun collecting items to be used in future tier trays while I’m out thrifting and antiquing. Tier trays are a great way to show off your personality. Check out Pinterest for lots of tiered tray décor ideas and inspiration.

For more project inspiration, check out these posts.

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12 Comments

    1. Thanks so much Anita. The St. Patrick’s day one turned out well. This was my first St. Patrick’s day tiered tray so I’m sure it will morph some but I was very pleased with how it turned out.

    1. Thanks Kristin. In our new home, I don’t have as much space to decorate so I’m pouring a lot of that energy into tiered trays and loving them.