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One rule I follow when thrifting is to see a find for what it can be not what it is. Take this antique drawer I found at an estate sale. It was at the bottom of a scrap wood pile in a stuffed-to-the-gills garage. The home’s previous owner had been a never-throw-away-anything-you-may-someday-need type and had seen the potential usefulness of a small drawer that had long since been separated from it’s original piece of furniture.

What sold me is its runner-less construction. Runners are the wood or metal glides that help a drawer to smoothly slide in and out; without them a drawer is just a shallow box. I was on the lookout for a small tray that could do double duty serving food and drinks at parties and was big enough to neatly store magazines on my coffee table the rest of the time – I thought I could make this drawer work. The bottom was flimsy due to water damage so I added a plywood board to strengthen it then tacked on quarter-round trim to disguise my fix and handles on each end so it could really function as a tray. 

Antique drawer repurposed as a tray

This project was a bargain costing me less than 10 bucks -- $3 for the drawer + another $6 for the handles which are actually gate pulls rather than drawer pulls. The quarter-round trim and stain I already had on hand.

So, what do I keep in my DIY tray? Magazines are a natural for me because I need to stay informed on design trends (plus I really enjoy reading them!) and I’m a sucker for candles and this pillar is deliciously scented. A bit of greenery always freshens things up, so I bring in a few cut flowers or branches whenever I’m doing yardwork. These are cuttings from the dwarf laurel (Otto Luyken) bushes outside my home. On top of the magazines are a pair of interlinked copper rings — another estate sale find whose original purpose I’ve yet to discover.

old drawer repurposed as a tray for magazines

The coffee table is a hub of activity in my living room so I change out the tray’s contents around the holidays:
old drawer repurposed as a tray for holiday greenery

Filled with candles, glittered pinecones and greenery from the backyard, my tray makes a lovely holiday centerpiece.

Looking for more repurposed design ideas? Check out our feature chock full of new uses for old stuff then tell us in the comments below how you turn shabby into chic.

13 Responses

  1. Carmen C. says:

    I love your tray. Love it that you see what 'will be' in something that 'is'.

  2. Nancy says:

    I even like the fact that you used gate pulls instead of drawer pulls. Makes it even more unique.

  3. Terris says:

    It's a beautiful tray.

  4. Carol Sizemore says:

    What a beautiful tray. I wish I was creative like that. I love how it looks with your Christmas touches too.

  5. Anne D. says:

    Beautiful tray. You are talented.

  6. Heather says:

    This is wonderful. One question – did you put the plywood on the very bottom of the tray and keep the original bottom to be seen or the opposite way around?

    Thanks for sharing

  7. Pat says:

    I love this tray.

  8. hgtvcamille says:

    Hi Heather, that's a great question. :) The water damage was to the underside of the drawer so I just added the piece of plywood to it then covered the joint w/ quarter-round and stained everything the same color. So, the bottom of the tray that's visible is the original wood.

  9. Belleandjune says:

    Wood Trays
    The chair is fabulous..you are darling..and wow, I can see why you covet that sofa!!! I hope it finds it's way to your home soon,
    for more info please visit Belleandjune.com

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H. Camille SmithCamille is a managing editor for HGTV.com, fine artist and antique furniture devotee. As a former interior designer and Nickelodeon animator, she has a real passion for balanced, beautiful interiors...

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