Monday, November 5, 2012

D.I.Y. Newspaper Table Tray

When we first bought our house and began thinking about renovating and making big changes, I became acutely aware of the "past" of our home.  I was thinking through color schemes and decorations and floor layouts...and it caused me to think of the people who must have stood in about the same places and who must have made the same kinds of decisions.  Evidence of those people and their lives kept popping up as we dug deeper into our home; we found old toys, some pictures, and even a memento of a baby's baptism. 

My favorite finding of our home's past was a collection of old newspapers stuffed between the studs in the walls, most of them from the 40's, when the house was built.  I started trying to think of a way to display the clippings, in order to sort of honor the home and let it stay connected to its past in spite of all the renovations.  I wanted to do it in a way that wasn't super obvious (so framing them wasn't an option) but that was cute and functional (as I believe most decor should be). After a bit of hemming and hawing, and some inspiration from this blogger who posted on my Pinterest challenge post  (of which there is a better picture on this post) I came up with this project. May I introduce my D.I.Y. Table Tray.  Come on down after the jump for a little how-to.

 I feel like this is all so obvious that it probably doesn't need a how-to, but I'm so pleased with how it turned out that I'm giving it the whole nine yards. So here we go. Step by step, how to make this totally awesome coffee table tray.

Obviously, you're going to need some things to make this happen.  Things like: 1. A thrifted wooden coffee table tray, 2. Newspaper clippings or some sort of decorative paper (scrapbook paper, or copies of vintage photos, maybe?I used about 2 whole pages of a vintage newspaper, plus the specific article clippings that I wanted to stand out), 3. Mod Podge, 4. Scissors, 5. A sponge or brush to apply the Mod Podge, 6. An old ID or old credit card, and 7. a soft cloth or microfiber cleaner to brush dust off of vintage papers (not pictured).  Once you've got it all together you're ready to roll.

The second thing you've got to do is get organized! It required a little bit of foresight to get the result I wanted, and this is when that happened.  I picked my favorite clippings (a few of which are pictured above), trimmed them down, and set them aside.  I knew that at the end of things, I would want these clippings to stand out and be noticeable, so they would have to go on last. Then I laid out my larger pieces, those which would go on first, to get a feel for how they would fit on the tray.  I wanted to make sure the whole thing would be covered.  (I didn't trim the larger pieces until I was gluing them on, just for safety's sake.)
It's not necessary to know at this point exactly where everything will go, but you should have a basic idea.

I've got to give you a better shot of that one in the corner, because it's one of my favorites, and I couldn't quite show it off very well in the collage...

Oh yeah. Life's toughest questions.

After you've pondered your children's shoes (with hand on chin, please) you can move on.

This step might not be necessary if you aren't using old papers that you just pulled out from between the dusty cracks in your walls. If you are, though, you are (a.) after my own heart and (b.) about to endure some sneezing.  The short and long of this step comes down to the fact that dirt and dust doesn't work with glue, or with anything that needs to stick.  I took one of those microfiber duster gloves and gently wiped down all my dusty old papers.  Be careful and thorough as you do this.

This next step gets a bit messy, but it's the fun part where you really start to see it all come together.  Cover the tray in ModPodge, stick down your papers.  Don't rush, and don't get will all turn out alright.  My tray had some interesting contouring on the sides that required me to be pretty creative to get it all covered.  As you put the paper down, use the credit card or ID to smooth out any bubbles.  Put your big pieces on first, like a background, and then use more ModPodge to apply those "favorites" that you picked out.  Keep going until the tray is covered.

After you've got everything in place and the tray is covered, apply ModPodge on top of the paper and seal it all.  This will protect your papers and give it a firmer finish. I used the credit card here again to make sure the ModPodge went on smoothly.

Have patience, grasshopper.  You are almost ready for the final step.  Give your tray LOTS of time to dry...remember, you've got two layers of glue in there that needs to cure.  I waited overnight before I moved on to step 7...

And there it is! It's the perfect fit for our coffee table, a much needed keeper of pens, remotes, keys, and other odds and ends.  I really love it.  It has just enough unique flavor to it to cause our more observant and inquisitive visitors to ask about it, and yet it's still subtle enough to not make me embarrassed for trying too hard.  If you're looking for a neat way to display some papers, I think this project is a win!

In light of all the "newness" and "change" that our house is enduring, I think it's a nice little nod of respect to the fact that we're not the first people to call this place "home." Am I crazy for wanting to do that? I have no idea.  I'm a pretty sensitive person, I know...but I think this is nice.  Even if it is too sentimental, at least it looks cool.

What do you think?


  1. Wow, that's awesome! The newspapers are such a cool find. The tray turned out great!

  2. what i took from this is that i am one of your more observant and inquisitive visitors. i spotted that bad boy as soon as i sat down. lol =] i really do love this and think its a really neat project you did a great job on. thanks for leaving that crossword intact. we will have to concure that completely when i am home for a little longer

  3. Definitely did not realize that you made that... I looked at that children's shoe fitting ad EVERY single time I sat on your couch.

  4. I love this! It's such a great conversation starter and if you ever move away from that house you'll have it to remember your and Dan's first home!

  5. LOVE the old newspaper clippings and slightly jealous of your find!!! Awesome idea on how to keep them!!

  6. 1. I think that the idea of a little tribute to previous inhabitants of the house is...well, one of the many reasons I love you. It's beautiful. You're like a wonderful person in a book except better because you're not in a book, you're real and you're my friend. It makes me happy.
    2. You mentioned "observant and inquisitive visitors" who might inquire about it. I wonder what that makes me, since I am possibly the only person on the planet who would look at these pictures and immediately notice that they spelled "kidnapped" wrong. And then I sound it out the way they spelled it and it makes me chuckle. Did you ever kidnape a gang leader? I feel like it must have something to do with fastening a baby goat at the nape of somebody's neck.

    1. Emily I love you so much. You have succeeded to flatter me and make me laugh all in one comment.

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