Restoring a mid century vanity tray is such a great way to decorate your vanity or dressing area, which can be a elegant and functional area in your home. I will show you how I restored a mid century vanity tray to its former “gold” glory. You can also upcycle a vanity tray to a more modern look using these same tips by painting it a modern color – white, gray, or teal. I will show you the supplies I used as well as the steps I took to make this mid century tray new again.
FYI – There are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase something, we may earn a small commission on the sale. Don't worry, we're not making enough to take off to Hawaii from your purchase. I just want to make it as easy as possible for you to complete a project like this.
First, I will start with the supplies I used. Feel free to use your favorite products, but these are the ones I used in case you're new to this type of project.
These are the actual supplies I used for this project. If a product is available online, you can click on the link below the picture, check out the cost, etc. Otherwise, check your local craft and/or hardware store. So gather your supplies and away we go.
- Plaid Liquid Leaf 6110 Classic Gold – available on Amazon, Joann's, etc.
- (2 – 4) 1″ foam brushes (you can use regular brushes, but I found the foam easy to use)
- Plaid Craft Clear Acrylic Sealer to seal the liquid leaf onto vanity tray
- Elmer's Craft Bond spray adhesive to adhere paper to bottom of tray (you should use a fabric bonder if you are using fabric for the bottom of the tray)
- Rubber self adhesive feet for the bottom (you can get these at your local hardware store)
- Paper or fabric to redo the bottom of the tray – I used DCWV Templates 11″ x 17″ paper from Joann's (see photos). This set included 2-3 sheets of each pattern (4-5 patterns in each set)
- Razor blade to clean up excess paint on mirror (be sure to keep these away from young hands)
- Old paper to put under the vanity tray to protect your surface during painting (use the paper inside of wrapping paper or $1 store shower curtains
- Paper plates to use for paint and brushes
- Paper towels or old rags to clean up excess paint
- Gloves to protect your manicure
Next, I will go over the steps to complete this project.
10 Steps to complete the restoration / upcyling project:
1. Clean the mirror, the metal of the tray, and the bottom. If the bottom of the tray is made of absorbent materials, avoid using water (or any other liquid) so you don't cause permanent damage to the tray.
2. Cover an area outside with adequate ventilation that you will be using to complete the project (especially if you use Liquid Leaf because it can be quite smelly). I use old paper bags or $1 store shower curtains to cover my surface so I don't get paint on it.
3. Before you start to paint, put the patterned paper or fabric you have decided to use on a flat surface with the “wrong” side up (the side that will be adhered to the bottom of the tray – not the one that will show). Trace the outside of the bottom of the tray onto the paper or fabric using a pencil. Put this aside while you paint the tray (you don't want to adhere the paper or fabric to the bottom of the tray until the tray is painted so you don't get paint on the newly covered bottom). You will use this while you're waiting for the paint to dry so I recommend doing it first (but it's not the end of the world if you forget).
4. Paint two coats of the Liquid Leaf, letting it dry completely in between the coats. I ran the foam brush along the edge of the tray on the inside first. I did not tape the mirror because the foam brush didn't leave much excess and the razor blade easily cleaned up the little bit of excess that was there (see my tip below on painting the outside of the tray). If you need a third coat, repeat this step. I only used two coats, but make sure the tray is covered completely.
Tip: You can put the tray on top of some old books or old mugs so you can paint the edges without getting the paint on the underside (see the photo below).
5. While you are waiting for the paint to dry, you will complete this step. Using the traced paper you made in Step 4 use scissors to cut out the pattern. Make sure it fits the underside of the tray. Then trace on an old piece of paper to cover the mirror when you spray the sealer in Step 8 (you will need to cut it 1/8-1/4″ smaller all the way around to make sure it fits inside the tray, but still covering the mirror).
6. Spray or paint the sealer on to the tray. If you need another coat, repeat this step after letting it dry. I only used one coat, but read the directions on the product you are using. The sealer is used so the Liquid Leaf does not rub off.
7. After the tray is completely dry, use the razor blade to remove any excess Liquid Leaf and/or sealer.
8. Now, you can begin the work on the underside. First, turn the tray over and cover up the outside of the tray with paper (don't use tape unless you absolutely need to because it may remove the finish).
9. Spray the glue bond on the bottom of the tray and carefully put the paper on the bottom with the pattern facing out so that it shows, making sure it covers the bottom completely. If you are using fabric, follow the directions for the fabric and the product you are using to adhere it to the bottom of the tray to complete this step.
10. Finally, the last step is to install the self adhesive rubber feet to the bottom.
Woo hoo – you are done and have a beautiful vanity tray! Just add some perfume bottles, jewelry or other “pretty things” and enjoy.
If you know someone who'd love to do this project, feel free to share it. If you complete this project, I would love to see your finished project and hear your feedback on anything that would have made this blog post better.