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Ideas for Styling Your Ottoman Tray

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

A living room ottoman is often used as a footrest, a casual dinner table or a spot to hold your remotes. However, you can make it look much more attractive by refashioning this functional piece of furniture into a chic design element. Place a decorative tray on your ottoman and you can easily use it as a coffee table.

We'll share some great tips on how choose an ottoman, a tray and the objects to display. You'll also learn how to style the tray and create an attractive and practical focal point for your living room.

Hunting for the Right Ottoman

There are hundreds of ottomans out there to choose from. As you’re shopping for one, consider the perfect style that works with your room design. Decide on the best shape, material and options. Depending on the size of your room, you can go with a large, medium or small ottoman in a square, round or rectangular shape.

Consider ottomans that provide accessible storage for throws, DVDs, sofa bed linens and clutter to hide away from visitors. Pick an ottoman in a durable fabric or leather that coordinates or contrasts with your room’s formal, modern or casual style. Take your time and examine the quality in person before you go online to compare prices and check out the reviews.

Ottoman Tips:

  1. Use the ottoman's size and shape to create depth and dimension in a room. For example, pair a round ottoman with a sectional sofa or place a rectangular ottoman with a love seat and two accent chairs.
  2. Select a color that is a significant portion of the room’s color palette, or try a neutral that can coordinate with any color.
  3. Dress it up with a whimsical pattern, texture or detail, such as tufting, fringe or welting.
  4. Buy a larger ottoman than you would normally choose. It will look stylish and functional making it the central hub of the living room.
  5. The top of an ottoman should be the same height as the seat of your sofa and chairs.
  6. Make sure the ottoman is relatively flat so your tray doesn’t teeter and spill your drink.
  7. An upholstered ottoman it is perfectly child-friendly. No one will get hurt bumping the edge of the ottoman.
This leather ottoman has a relatively level surface that will easily balance a decorative tray.

This leather ottoman has a relatively level surface that will easily balance a decorative tray.

Looking for the Perfect Tray

Look for the right tray that corresponds to the size and shape of your ottoman. Once you’ve determined the dimensions, decide which type of tray material you prefer. Wood trays work well to keep things like remotes and magazines organized.

Natural materials give the room an organic feel. Rattan, abaca, seagrass and hyacinth trays are not really great for drinks or candles. The open weave can absorb liquids and drip onto your ottoman.

Trays with a lacquered finish add a sophisticated appeal and versatility. The hard glossy coating protects from spills and it is much easier to clean up. Lacquer is a bit pricier than natural materials but it will hold up for years.

Choose a tray with handles, making it easy to move when you’re cleaning or using it for a special occasion as a serving tray. Most have handles cut out from the sides or feature attached handles. Pick a tray with sides at least two inches in height to keep items in place.

Tray Tips:

  1. You can also use a tray to contain items like books, your smart phone, playing cards and a journal. Plus, it's a great place to display your personal objects.
  2. Buy a tray that mirrors the shape of the ottoman. For example, use a round tray on a round ottoman.
  3. Instead of spending a lot on an oversize tray, purchase several smaller tones that can give the illusion of a large one.
  4. It’s probably a good idea to get one with handles for practical uses.
  5. Choose a natural hue, complementary color or fun pattern.
  6. Create contrast with a wood, metal, acrylic or mirrored tray.
Shiny high gloss lacquer trays make your room sophisticated.

Shiny high gloss lacquer trays make your room sophisticated.

Styling the Tray

Your ottoman tray should be styled in a simple and tidy manner to keep it from becoming too cluttered. Add texture, heights and color. Practical items such as coasters, a notebook and remotes can be hidden away in a decorative storage box.

If you have enough room on the tray, include coffee table books to create graphic significance. Stack the books in odd numbers and graduate the sizes from large to small. Add a pretty accessory like a cloisonne bowl for the cherry on top.

An aromatic display will enhance in the room with fresh flowers, incense, reed diffusers or an essential oil nebulizer. Another way to create a romantic mood is to style the tray with flickering votives, a decorative lantern or a triple-wick candle.

Follow this guide to help you create a pleasing display on your new tray. Split the tray into three or four portions and place an object in each section. Select items from similar groupings for a unified display, such as books, collectibles, keepsakes, plants, or candles.

You can switch things out seasonally or create a brand new display. Another option is to incorporate natural elements that add warmth and texture. Small succulents, shells, driftwood, geodes and coral can give a tray an organic vibe.

Styling Tips:

  1. Add different heights to draw the eye up for an interesting visual.
  2. Create a color palette with at least three complementary colors on the tray.
  3. Create harmony by adding similar items in each section of the tray.
  4. Add small objects, such as decorative boxes, vases or exotic accessories on top of books.
  5. Don’t forget to use a variety of textures to blend with the room’s decor.
  6. Use unique objects on the tray from your travels, antique items or eclectic accessories that can start a conversation among guests.
  7. If you love collecting items such as shells, cameos, buttons or crystals, it's a great way to style the tray. Organize these collections in decorative containers.
A lovely tray arrangement using natural organic objects.

A lovely tray arrangement using natural organic objects.

Questions & Answers

Question: My ottoman is 24x34. What size tray would you suggest?

Answer: A 19" x 19" or 14" x 18" tray for your ottoman. If you don't have a coffee table, why not use an ottoman for a tray. It comes in handy when it turns it into an instant table. The tray is perfect for entertaining to convert your ottoman into a coffee table.

© 2019 Linda Chechar

Start a Conversation!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on March 01, 2019:

Liz, that's a really nice addition to a hotel lounge area. I really prefer ottomans over coffee tables. It really gives the space a comfortable feel.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 01, 2019:

I noticed that the executive lounge on the top floor of the Hilton Amsterdam had an ottoman in front of some sofas with a dark wood rimmed tray similar to one you show. It definitely doubled as a coffee table and the deep rim protected the ottoman from spills.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on February 28, 2019:

Eman, it's quite amazing that an ottoman tray is such a big trendy design element. I think they're beautiful and fun to style. Glad you liked the article.

Eman Abdallah Kamel from Egypt on February 28, 2019:

It is a very interesting article. I love Ottoman styles and furnishings. It increases the beauty of the place. Thanks, Linda, for the ideas and tips.