$10 Distressed Farmhouse Trays {Tutorial}

Hi there, sweet friends!

You know how I love a good thrift store find. Well, I found these vintage wooden folding trays hiding out at a local Goodwill about a year or so ago and, at only $5 for a set of four, I just couldn’t pass them up!

$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried looking for folding trays, but let me tell you – they can be so dang expensive! At least the stylish ones are. I had been searching for a set for awhile, but none were in a price range I could justify spending. So, when I came across these folding trays at Goodwill, I thought it would be fun to give them a little chippy, farmhouse-style makeover!

$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm

The thing I love about folding trays is that they’re portable, so they can be moved pretty much wherever you need them. In our home, we often use them as a makeshift side table, for eating in front of the TV or even while I’m blogging from the couch. And then I can store them away out of sight whenever they’re not being used! It’s actually really practical, and I love that.

The folding trays that I picked up at Goodwill were pretty worn – they had clearly been lovingly used for many years and had seen better days! I wanted to give them a vintage farmhouse feel while incorporating some handpainted lettering. I really love how they turned out!

$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm $10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm

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$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm


  1. Wipe down each folding tray with a damp cloth rag for a clean surface. Apply two coats of bauhaus buff (or another white) chalk paint, and let dry. (NOTE: With chalk paint, there’s no need to sand the surface prior to painting.)
  2. As the chalk paint is drying, measure the length and width of the tray top. Use those dimensions to create a typography design on PicMonkey. To do this, you’ll select “Design,” then “Custom” and enter your dimensions in pixels (I used unitconversions.org to convert from inches to pixels). Next, you’ll choose your fonts (mine were Black Jack, Special Elite and Quicksand) and create your design, saving it as a JPG.
  3. Upload your design to BlockPosters by selecting “Create Your Poster.” Then, choose “Upload Your Image” and customize your poster to be two pages wide, portrait, letter and have a border. Select “Create My Poster” and print on two pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper, which you’ll then tape together on the back so that the words line up on each page.
    $10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm
  4. Once the chalk paint has fully dried, rub the colored chalk onto the BACK of the printed poster (not the design side), and place it chalk side down centered on the tray top so that the design side is facing up. Next, tape the edges of the poster down onto the tray, and trace the outline of the design with a ballpoint pen. This will transfer the chalk to the tray top. Carefully remove the poster, and set aside.
    $10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm
  5. Trace the chalk outline with a fine-point marker. Once the ink is dry, use a slightly damp cloth rag to remove the chalk outline so that only the marker outline remains.
    $10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm
  6. Fill in the chalk outline with black chalk paint using a fine-tip brush. Let dry.
  7. Then, use an orbital sander to (lightly) smooth out the handpainted lettering and distress the edges of each folding tray. Wipe down with a slightly damp cloth rag to remove any remaining dust residue.
  8. Finally, apply one or two coats of polycrylic, and let dry overnight.

$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm

And there you have it – your very own distressed farmhouse trays for a fraction of the price! I already had most of the supplies on hand, so this project cost me less than $10 to make.

$10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm $10 DIY Distressed Farmhouse Trays Tutorial | Character & Charm

What do you think?

Source List:

  • folding trays – thrift store
  • leather couch – family member (FREE)
  • linen + ticking fabric throw pillows – handmade
  • home sweet farmhouse pillow – The Dotted Bow
  • coffee mug – Target
  • vintage sewing cabinet – thrift store (read story behind this piece here)
  • ironstone pitcher – thrift store
  • burlap feed sack – flea market
  • patterned area rug – Target
  • antique book – library book sale


    1. Thank you so much, Denise! That is so sweet of you. 🙂 I would definitely try stopping in at thrift stores, yard/garage sales and flea markets as often as you can. Earlier in the week is better for thrift stores, as that’s when new merchandise is usually put out on the floor. Hope you find what you’re looking for!!!

  1. Katie, thank you for a GREAT idea!! I have table trays in my garage that I had no idea what to do with! This is perfect. Since I do not have ANY supplies, as this will be my first attempt at a DYI project, can you “guesstimate” what the cost for all of the supplies might be? Thanks again and I can’t wait to share this idea with my DYI-loving friend!!

    1. Hi Ann-Marie! Thank you so much for your sweet comment! You just made my morning. 🙂 I’m so happy to hear that this project inspired you to create your own tray tables! We use ours every single day now! And if you are literally starting from scratch, the supplies could end up costing near $50 (everything included), but unless you plan on using these items regularly (like I do with my projects), it would probably make more sense to see if you can borrow a few of the items from family or friends (e.g., orbital palm sander, polycrylic, measuring tape, chalk, paint brush, etc.). You can also use an old white t-shirt as the cloth rag, so long as it’s clean. Plus, keep in mind that you’re only going to need a portion of the chalk paint and polycrylic for this project (it won’t use it all), so you’ll have plenty leftover for other projects! ❤ Hope you have a wonderful day, and good luck with your trays!!!

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