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Decorative Trays

Decorative TraysClick to EnlargeDecorative Trays

“the technique of tray meals”

One of my favorite decorating and entertaining muses was the British writer Agnes Jekyll (1861-1937). Agnes was famous for entertaining and gracious living. And she was particularly fond of decorative trays. In her book, Kitchen Essays, she wrote, "Remember that the whole tone of the day can be set into a happy major key instead of into a mournful one by the mere aspect of the breakfast tray." Jekyll’s words are the quintessential description of everything one wants in decorative trays.

Jekyll talks about "the technique of tray meals." It's as charming a phrase now as it was when she wrote the essay called "Tray Food" about serving trays and their uses in 1922.

When they are not being used for serving, decorative trays are decorative accessories that can make home decor cheery. From large trays to ottoman trays, wood trays to wicker trays to plastic trays, you just cannot have too many decorative trays. Trays make great gifts too!

Decorative Trays

It's a good thing to have a stash of decorative trays on hand for party trays or everyday. Large trays are a must when setting up or cleaning up for parties but they can be used for much more than clearing and serving trays. Decorative trays can be chic bar trays or attractive ottoman trays for magazines and such too. There are a lot of famous tray users. Here’s some inspiration for choosing and using decorative trays. Sometimes it’s what is on the tray that really makes it decorative. I’ve selected the trays of a few tray users below to see, and in some cases imagine, what they would have had on their decorative trays.

One of the most artistic decorative trays I found belongs to Rosamund Bernier. It was featured in Wendy Goodman's fantastic Design Hunting blog. Wendy took the image to the right of a decorative tray belonging to Rosamund Bernier. Rosamund was famous for her lectures on art at the Met and much more. Her husband John Russell was an art critic. In this case, the items on the tray are what make it decorative. The sculpture is by Henry Moore and the “I love you” and the ear are by Louise Bourgeois who told Rosamund, “when you talk, we listen.” Make decorative trays a work of art with things that have meaning for you.
decorative trays Bernier

If you visit the War Museum in London, you will see Churchill's bed tray. During WWII, he used to have breakfast in bed and plan the day's maneuvers on a sturdy decorative tray poised on his lap. The museum is fascinating. Authentic maps and messages in code are everywhere. Many of them probably adorned Churchill’s decorative trays at breakfast.

Serving Churchill was no short order. At many time, he held the world’s fate held on his shoulder’s. His courage and resolve were amazing. What does your commanding officer need on his decorative tray? How about The Wall Street Journal, strong coffee, his iphone with one of our telephone handsets, his snail mail invitations, his briefings for the day's meetings and a big glass of fresh orange juice?
decorative trays Churchill

Diana Vreeland was said to have oatmeal every morning on a butlers tray. In the Vogue days, Diana's decorative trays, perhaps selected by her decorator Billy Baldwin, would have included all the society newspapers, The New York Times, Women’s Wear Daily, Page 6, photos from Bill Cunningham of last night's hot party and a cup of tea made with Maison de The tea from Paris. The image of her bedroom to the right helps us picture her reading all this material with one of her decorative trays on her lap.
decorative trays Vreeland
Diana Vreeland's Bedroom

In his book Sissinghurst, Adam Nicholson, Vita Sackville West's grandson, shares a letter that Vita wrote to Leonard Woolf about using decorative trays when she lived at Sissinghurst. Sissinghurst was composed of many separate buildings and apparently that required the servants to bring Vita tray meals quite a lot. When Vita was sick, they brought her meals on a serving tray. She writes: "You may imagine that Sissinghurst is at no time an ideal place for invalids, but when it means carrying trays through snow-drifts some sixteen times a day it is really hell." We don’t really know whether Vita’s trays were decorative trays or not but I like to imagine they were, and that perhaps in the summer one of them was brought to her with white flowers from her famous White Garden on it.
 decorative trays Sackville West

Decorative Trays