How to Decorate a Christmas Tray Like a Pro

Last updated Dec 11, 2018 | Published on Nov 14, 2018 | Christmas, Decorating, Holidays, Styling, Tutorial

Decorate a Christmas Tray Like the Ones You See on Pinterest

You know those well-styled tiered trays you see on Pinterest and Instagram? Here’s how you too can decorate a Christmas tray¬† in 4 steps.

You’ll notice I use ‘steps’ a lot in my tutorials. I like to piece things apart and show you ways that you can do what designers do.

Because I don’t think decorating should be difficult and I do think it should be fun.

But it helps to understand the ‘rules’ because decorating is a process, like almost everything else in life. When you understand the process, it’s easier to apply it to your own designs. From there, you can go crazy! So, here we go…


Before you tackle your tiered tray, you need a tray and you need things to put on it.

Tiered trays can have any number of trays, I usually stick to 2 or 3. They can also be any size. The bigger the size, the more impactful your design but the more decorative items you’ll need to fill it. The tray I’m using here was purchased at my local Homegoods. You can find these trays at any local hobby, craft or decor store.

Tiered trays are generally filled with cute little pieces of decor. It’s a great way to show them all off in a (we hope) cohesive way. So you need some cute little pieces to start.

How I find my decor pieces

  1. I shop my house. I’m a big fan of re-using and re-purposing decor. Something that showed up in a display earlier in the year or last year may also show up in a display for this Christmas.
  2. I pick up odds and ends throughout the year. For Christmas, I shop the after Christmas sales and I start looking as soon as Christmas decor hits the stores. I don’t go on a mad shopping expedition and try to find all my pieces all at once. It’s just not possible.

How many pieces will you need?

It all depends on the size of your tray and the size of your pieces. I usually estimate 10-12 pieces for my tiered tray projects.


For this project, I used the following items. You’ll notice that they are all in Christmas colors – gold, red, green. I wanted to keep the colors fairly evenly balanced so I made sure no one color dominated the whole tray.

decorate a christmas tray

Two large items. I wanted a couple of items that would fill about one third of the bottom tray.

  • I almost always start decorating a tiered tray with a mug. This one was purchased at my local Homegoods. I filled it with small Christmas star ornaments that I already had.
  • The super cute gnome was purchased at an online shop called Me and Mama.

decorate a christmas tray

5 medium-sized items to fill the back of the lower tray and the sides and back of the upper tray. For the upper tray, I wanted items that were of varying heights so you can see them when I place something in front.

All of these items except the Joy sign were items I had in my home. I purchased the Joy sign at my local Hobby Lobby.

decorate a christmas tray

3 smaller items to fill the front of the upper tray and the middle front of the bottom tray.

  • The reindeer is from my local Pier1.
  • I purchased the mittens last year.
  • The small red mug is from my local Target. I filled it with small Christmas balls I purchased from last year and used striped string that was confiscated from last year’s gift wrapping.

decorate a christmas tray

3 small items to use as fillers where I needed them.

  • The Merry Merry sign is from my local Hobby Lobby
  • The little snowman and small red bird with the dangly legs (it’s always good to find a figure with short, dangly legs for a tiered tray!) was purchased last year.


Start with the biggest items first, then build from the back to the side to the front. You want to be sure that you can see most of the items, at least from the front view of the tray.


decorate a christmas tray

Place the two largest items on either side of the bottom tray.


decorate a christmas tray

Place the medium sized items on the sides and back of the upper and lower trays.


decorate a christmas tray

Place the small-mid sized items on the top and bottom trays, filling in the larger gaps.


decorate a christmas tray

Fill in the remaining holes with the small, filler items.



Honestly, I tend to fuss with trays. I will place the items as described and then if necessary, I move them around until I feel that:

  • things look balanced in terms of color
  • things look balanced in terms of size
  • all the important items are visible from the front of the tray
  • no one area is especially crowded
  • there are no large gaps between items


How about you?

If you have a tiered tray you’d like to show off I’d love to see it. Please share in the comments below!

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Thanks SO much for reading!

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