For the past few months, I’ve been on the (seemingly endless) search for stylish TV trays and let me tell you—they don’t seem to exist. Or, at least, not at a reasonable price. We needed them for our living room—since our apartment isn’t big enough for a dining room table (nor is there really a proper designated space for one), we tend to eat all our dinners on the couch. We recently rearranged our space a bit (and got new couches), so our usual steamer trunk “table” wasn’t a viable option anymore. Instead of eating on the floor every night (which just seemed like a sad visual), we decided to invest in a set of TV trays.
Problem was, we couldn’t find anything we liked. Everything I found was either way too clunky and wooden or way too expensive. I finally opted to buy a vintage mid-century style set of four (with a rolling holding rack!) for $60 off Etsy. While they weren’t the finish I wanted, the were more the shape I was looking for, and I had a fun and easy DIY up my sleeve to give them a modern update.
The plan? Use fabric and polyurethane to resurface the tops of the trays and gold spray paint to update the faux-wood (yikes!) legs. I picked up a yard of inexpensive fabric that went with the color scheme in our living room, along with Mod Podge and water-based polyurethane (it’s important to make sure it’s water-based when working with fabric or it could color it!).
To start, I cut my fabric to fit inside the tray—lucky for me, in this instance the lip of the tray had a slight space beneath it and I could tuck in the fabric a bit for edge-to-edge coverage. If whatever you’re covering with fabric (and you can do any kind of surface—it’s so great!) doesn’t have that, I would recommend using a razor blade to get as accurate of an edge as you can.
Once your fabric is cut, coat the surface you will be attaching it to (in my case, the top of the tray) with Mod Podge and smooth the fabric onto the surface, being careful to remove any extra bumps or bubbles. Let dry. Once dry (mine took about two hours to competely dry), use a regular paint brush to paint on a thick layer of the water-based polyurethane (I recommend you do this on a covered surface so you don’t ruin anything!). Allow to dry completely (at least an hour), then coat again, repeating the process three or four times.
While the polyurethane was setting, I took the legs of the tables outside for a quick spritz of metallic gold spray paint (On a very windy day, I might add. Not my best plan).
The polyurethane will harden to create a plastic-like surface on your fabric that is food-safe once it’s dried (meaning you can also do this to a kitchen table). You can wipe it clean if something spills and the fabric will not peel up from the surface of the table.
The end result? An easy and cheap update that was definitely worth the afternoon I spent doing it. A few notes: this takes a bit of time and patience, so I’d recommend doing it on a rainy day while watching a movie. Also, if you choose a white fabric like I did, be mindful that all the “wet” liquid of the Mod Podge and polyurethane will cause it to become a bit sheer/see through. You can see a bit of the original wood texture through ours because the white I chose was so sheer, but in the end I don’t mind it much! I think if I did it over again, I might have coated the trays with a layer of white paint just to minimize that effect. You live and you learn! Either way, we now have a pretty cute excuse to eat dinner in front of the TV every night—all my childhood dreams come true.