since my approach has always been to focus on the practicalities of interior design, i find the tray one of the less obvious decorating staples. with furnishings, as with most wardrobes, the basics are limited but like iris apfel one can always accessorize. trays have saved me from the bleak expanses of desolate dining room tables with inferior center-pieces, badly styled table-scapes, and waiting-room-magazine-sprawl. regardless of how cliché it may sound, trays can work wonders to turn almost any collection of oddities into a framed still life of sorts.
i’ll admit to suffer from hoarders-angst. bring me the tray.

in my experience it’s only the practical that survives the perfect photo shoot and impromptu return visits to cients’ homes bear testament to it - but that’s for decor babylon. a simple little tray on the vanity can prevent that dreaded make-up-migration, with tubes of cosmetics littering the basin tops like lemmings au stampede. ditto next to the bath. trays for fruit, potted herbs or trays for the unsightly but inevitable collection of remote control devices. of course for me the ashtray is an indispensable item. bless rosenthal for their uber-refined smoker sets.
another favorite organizer deprived space is the home office - although i still prefer to call it the study, if you’re like me and can’t bear to run to the flush mounted cassina credenza every time you need to sharpen a pencil, the desk with all it’s clutter can all be organized in the tray. it became easier for me after having to teach my children to clean up after themselves. provide the most convenient space for it and voila, problem solved…or is it? now enters the delicate choice of tray. as with most choices, it’s just an illusion. there is just one choice really…the right one of course. after years of being enamored with the latest this, that and the other design, i have to bow out to the classics. shape: round or rectangular, no ifs or buts. as long as it is sturdy it doesn’t matter what material it’s made of; silver, regency papier- maché or bamboo. even the most random of items look better if presented in a tray.

a personal favorite of mine is the tray table, and again practicality rules. the butler’s tray is one of the most versatile pieces of furniture. another gift from the colonies along with slavery. i prefer tables with a bit of substance if it’s going to be more permanent, but a drinks table should be something easy to set up - these days more regularly than not. a permanent drinks display has probably been passé since susan hayward in ‘i’ll cry tomorrow’ but thanks to mad men and recession have enjoyed a much deserved revival.

whether practical or decorative, i could never get past the chinoiserie department, but these days my 4th grade daughter can produce better replicas than most reproductions i find for sale. once you find a good one you’ll never look back. display it proudly on the dining room table and when you entertain, use it alongside as drinks or condiments table. advice from the reluctant hostess. just so you know trolleys, what-nots and etageres are covered in a different chapter. trays may be less de rigueur than other decorative accessories but after all is considered i still believe the only must have tray is the breakfast-in-bed-tray.