But does it have to be a tiered tray?

So, you might be caught up in one of the design trends from the past several years – tiered tray decorating. And that is ok! There is nothing wrong with being a tiered tray lover, a tiered tray decorator, or a tiered tray connoisseur, or all of the above! But many of us have not gotten on the tiered tray train simply because we get lost in all the terminology that seems to follow this fun and simple concept.

The first tiered tray that I owned (made, actually) was functional. I made it to store produce. I wanted a place to store the tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, etc. on my countertop in a single space but wanted them to be stored on something pretty, something that could be easily moved, easily cleaned, and had room for the variety of veggies that are go to add-ins for my family dinner recipes.

After I made my tray, I was blown away to find out that people used them to DECORATE with. And thus, the journey began. Along the way, I would get so many ideas to decorate in cute themes but couldn’t stretch them enough to fill a tray to my satisfaction, or frankly, couldn’t afford to buy this and that to accommodate the different tiers of the trays.

So, the focus on this blog is breaking away from the constraints of the term “tiered tray decorating” and to help us learn more about ways to make whatever space you have set aside to decorate fulfill your wildest décor ideas (and your budget).

Let’s talk about tiered trays, decorative trays, flatlays, tabletop décor, and vignettes!

Tiered Tray

Let’s talk about a tiered tray. It is simply a decorative tray that has multiple levels of space that can be used for storage, decorating, or a combination of both concepts. A tiered tray allows you to carry or extend your theme to multiple levels and allows the decorator to play with a combination of colors, textures, sizes, etc. in more than one space. That is both a pro and a con. More space means you will need more decorative items and more decorative items could mean more CHA-CHING, money.

In this image, there are multiple levels of décor. Some is seasonal that will be changed out per season, and some is interchangeable or staple décor but because there is more space, it has to be decorated in order to make the display aesthetically pleasing.

Decorative Tray

A decorative tray is simply that, a tray. I love to use single level trays to highlight specific decorative items that I want to display. I think these are great for holiday themes as you can add a cute sign, a couple of pieces, and wallah, you have your decorative space set up. Of course, there are a variety of trays available that can be used to decorate with. I have seen very practical and chic trays at dollar stores that can be painted and embellished for less than $10, beautiful ornate trays, and antique trays being used to embellish personal spaces. Whatever you have or want to buy to set up a decorative scene is completely up to you. It doesn’t have to be tiered in order for you to have fun creating your scene.

In this image a teacup floral arrangement has been added to a riser on top of a handkerchief doily to add a flirty, feminine element to the design. The tray is plastic piece in a fun color that adds to this simple design.


When I first heard this term, I thought it was something that sounded mysterious and decoratively magical. And a flatlay can be amazing once you put your decorative mojo on it. Don’t get caught up in the term and blow it out of proportion because it is a “term”.

A flatlay is simply a decorative scene curated to be displayed on a flat surface. It makes me think of the Precious Moments scenes on a dresser or table on top of a doily with a couple of accompanying porcelain or antique pieces. This is something I was doing long before I realized it was an actual decorating “thing”. I’m sure many of us have done this just because we wanted to make a space pretty so we grabbed a couple of cute or sentimental things and threw them together on an end table or coffee table and had a beautiful scene that we set up and enjoyed in less than five minutes. A flatlay can be accomplished by simply shopping around our home using pieces we already have around the house. Then arranging those pieces aesthetically according to our own personal likes and preferences. If you have done this, this means you are already an accomplished decorator!

This image is actually a listing photo for one of my Etsy products. I wanted the emphasis to be on the product (my faux chocolate chip cookies), so I looked around the house and grabbed some complimentary items that went along with sweets and were reminiscent of warm cookies out of grandma’s oven. I made the faux chocolates and faux milk and everything else costed less than five dollars each and less than $10 together.

It is a flat design that causes the eye to be drawn to the pieces highlighted by the doily. I had so much fun putting this little scene together.

Tabletop Décor

Ah, tabletop décor. Another term that involves a quandary of decorating catch phrases -- Coffee bar décor, countertop décor, hot chocolate bar décor. These terms had me in a tizzy when I first heard them. There are so many terms out there floating around that all have the same end game in mind, decorating that is done using pieces of a common theme to decorate a single space, a coffee bar, a countertop, a tabletop, or a hot chocolate bar. Nothing mysterious about that at all. Don’t get caught in the tangle of terminology.

As mentioned above, this display below has a common theme, uses a few complimentary pieces, and dresses up the space. Doesn’t this picture make you smell Spring? That’s what a display should do. Exude a feeling or a thought and make the space more special.


Vignette, another term that sounds so fancy, delightfully decoratively delicious and just all around fab. Let’s break it down. A vignette is simply a small scene that is created by using decorative objects in a common space. A vignette is what you create on a decorative tray, a tiered tray, a countertop or a tabletop. See, nothing complicated there, but such a high falutin’ word for something so fun and easy. If you have already set up one of these decorative scenes, you are already an expert at creating vignettes in your space.

Now that we have broken down the terminology, I hope you realize that getting bound up in technicalities is the furthest thing away from creativity. Please know that you can have an abundance of fun and let your creative and decorative juices flow when setting up your space. As you can see, many of these terms are interchangeable and incorporate themes from other classifications.

As I say in each one of my posts, the most important thing is to have fun, make your space special and individual to you and your home, and don’t bust your budget. Making a beautiful decorative scene can be done on any surface and using whatever space you have available, and no, it doesn’t have to be built on a tiered tray.

But does it have to be a tray
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