February 19, 2020  

Color-Blocked DIY Trays From Upcycled Cabinet Doors

Upcycle cabinet doors and drawer fronts into colorful, decorative trays. These DIY trays are a simple and budget-friendly project! And they’re perfect for organizing small items on a dresser, shelf, or counter!

painted diy tray with pink and blue strips and silver handles

It’s Thrift Shop Challenge reveal day – one of my favorites!! My friends and I get together every few months and challenge each other to transform thrift store finds, and it’s always so much fun to see the before and afters.

The beauty of thrifting is that you never know what you’ll find! It often takes me a couple trips to the store before I come across a project piece (the hunt is part of the fun!), and this time around I found it at our local Habitat Restore.

These old oak boards are drawer fronts, I’m guessing from an old bathroom vanity. Keep reading to see how I upcycled them into modern, colorful DIY trays!

3 oak cabinet drawer fronts on table

Make sure you also check out the others participating in this round of the Thrift Shop Challenge. My friends always dream up the most creative projects!

I always take this challenge one step further by making sure my projects meet these two requirements:

  1. Made with items that are commonly found at thrift stores (so you can easily recreate my projects!)
  2. Serve an organizing purpose (this doesn’t happen every time, but almost!)

We’ll get to the detailed tutorial in a moment, but first let’s take a quick peek at how pretty these DIY trays turned out!


painted diy trays made from old cabinet doors styled with plant on table
top down view of 3 painted diy trays

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DIY Wooden Trays With Cabinet Doors/Drawer Fronts

These pretty DIY wooden trays are the perfect thing for corralling small items on a dresser, table, counter, or bookshelf. Things always look more organized when grouped on a pretty tray!

Here are a few ways you could use them:

  • Set one on your dresser or nightstand to corral jewelry and makeup
  • Place a small bowl on one and use it as a drop spot for keys, spare change, and wallets on the entryway table
  • Store your remotes on a tray on your coffee table or end table
  • We have a similar size tray on our kitchen counter next to the deck door that holds a pretty canister of dog treats and a faux potted plant! Great way to disguise pet supplies within easy reach.
  • Display beauty products on a tray on your makeup vanity or bathroom counter.
  • Add a plant and candle or other small decorative object and you have a pretty vignette for your bookshelf.
  • Use your tray in your office to show off your prettiest pens in a pencil cup with a small bowl of paper clips and a stack of Post-Its next to it.
  • Use one on your bathroom counter as a perch for bottles of hand soap and lotion. (Make sure you apply a good topcoat if this tray will be near water!)
  • Can you tell I love trays?! I could use one of these in every room of my house 😉


  • Old Cabinet Door or Drawer Fronts (you can usually find these at your local Habitat Restore)
  • Paint
    • I used General Finishes Milk Paint leftover from past projects. It’s a thick water-based paint that cures hard and is very durable. I did not use a topcoat because this paint is durable on its own and this tray is decorative, not intended for food or anything like that.
    • I also recommend DecoArt Satin Enamels paint because it dries hard and doesn’t require a topcoat.
    • You could also use other leftover wall paint or craft paint for this project, you may just need more coats or a topcoat depending on what you use.
  • Foam Paint Brushes
  • Paint Stir Sticks
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Painter’s Pyramids (optional)
  • Liquid Sandpaper
  • Sandpaper (I used a rough 80-grit after the Liquid Sandpaper, before painting. And then a 220-grit to lightly sand between coats of paint.)
  • Paper Towels
  • Drill & Drill Bit (to install the cabinet pulls)
  • Cabinet Pulls For Your Handles – optional (you can find these at the Habitat Restore, too, and the color can easily be updated with spray paint)
  • Small Wooden Beads For Feet along with super glue or hot glue – optional (I used these on the larger tray to create a raise pedestal look)
  • Clear Bumpers or Felt Pads To Protect Bottom – I used these stick-on clear bumpers on the bottom of my trays to protect from scratching. I stuck them on the handle screws and the wooden feet of my trays. You could also use felt chair pads or something similar to protect your counter or table from scratches.
  • Note: If your cabinet doors/drawers have holes on the front side from old hardware, you’ll also need wood filler to fill them in before you paint.
foam brushes and general finishes milk paint on table

Step 1 – Prep Your Cabinet Doors For Painting

Before you start painting, you’ll want to clean the doors well and prep them by either sanding or using liquid sandpaper.

Remove any price tags first (mine left a bunch of sticky residue which I took care of with Goo Gone). Then wipe down your cabinet doors using a paper towel and household cleaner of any kind.

Then it’s time to prep the surface so the paint will adhere to it. You could use a power sander to sand off the entire finish, but that’s a lot of work and dust. I prefer using Liquid Sandpaper for this instead because it requires far less elbow grease.

Liquid Sandpaper is a degreaser and a deglosser so it will remove a lot of the grime that’s probably built up on these old cabinet doors and the deglosser helps roughen up the glossy finish.

Pour the Liquid Sandpaper onto a paper towel and wipe it all over both sides of the cabinet door. You may want to wear rubber gloves for this–read the instructions!

The Liquid Sandpaper should be plenty of prep, but just to be safe I also grabbed some 80-grit sandpaper and did a light sanding job just to remove a bit more of the shiny topcoat on the cabinet doors.

Note: If your cabinet doors/drawers have holes on the front side from old hardware, you’ll also need wood filler to fill them in before you paint.

liquid sandpaper and oak cabinet door

Step 2 – Select Your Color Palette

If you want to create a pretty color-blocked look like my trays, you’ll want to spend a bit of time selecting paint colors that complement each other. I tried a few 4-color palettes but ended up going with 3 colors per tray. It’s really up to you!

I pulled out all of the paint colors I had left over from past projects and played around with different color combinations on printer paper. Then I cut them apart so I could compare the palettes to each other and choose 3 that worked together since I made 3 DIY trays.

You could also search Pinterest for color palette inspiration or look for a paint brand’s color of the year since they all create color palettes of the year with trendy colors that work together.

color palettes painted on paper
color palettes painted on paper

If you’re curious, here are the colors I used (all General Finishes Milk Paint):

  • Larger Square Tray: Ballet Pink + Blue Moon + Basil
  • Pink & Blue Tray With Handles: Coral Crush + Ballet Pink + Blue Moon
  • Blue & Green Tray With Handles: Persian Blue + Blue Moon + Basil
general finishes milk paint cans and paint color palette
general finishes milk paint cans and paint color palette

Step 3 – Paint The First Color(s)

To achieve the color blocked look, you’ll need to do two rounds of painting because your painter’s tape will be in the way of doing all the colors at once.

Apply painter’s tape diagonally across the top and sides of your tray. This will give you crisp paint lines. The spacing of your tape is up to you, I just eye balled what I thought would look cool. You could attempt to make all sections relatively equal in size or make them more random.

painters tape on old cabinet door

For our first round of painting, we’ll be painting alternating colors. If you have three colors, you can choose if you want to paint the middle color first or the outside two. If you’re doing 4 colors, you’ll want to paint every other color. You can see in the photo below that I did it both ways.

Lightly position your painter’s tape to make sure you like the placement, then smooth it down well across the top and down the edges of your DIY tray. You’ll want to be careful that the tape gets pressed tight along the curved edges so paint doesn’t bleed underneath.

Since you’ll paint the backs one solid color at the end, you just need enough tape to wrap around the edges and end on the back. Then when you paint you’ll just want to make sure you get the edges fully covered and any paint you brush on the back will be covered later on.

stripes painted on old cabinet door turned diy tray

I like to use these painter’s pyramids to lift my painting projects off of the table. That way I can easily paint the full edge. They also touch a very small surface area so you can flip over and paint the backside of your project before the front side is fully cured.

Stir your paint well with a stir stick, then use a foam brush to paint a light coat of paint on your upcycled cabinet door. The number of coats you do will depend on the paint you’re using, I would expect to do 3-4 coats (I needed 3 for full coverage).

The first coat will be streaky and not completely cover the wood, but that’s okay. The subsequent coats will make it look better. Follow your paint instructions for wait time between coats.

Then after your last coat, gently pull up the painter’s tape while the paint is still wet.

Step 4 – Paint The Remaining Colors(s)

Allow your first round of paint to fully cure before you start round 2. This is because you’ll need to apply painter’s tape over top of the paint you’ve already done and you don’t want the tape to ruin your paint. I let my first round dry overnight.

For the second coat, you’ll need to line up painter’s tape along the edges you already painted, only this time the tape will be on top of the existing paint. Allow a small edge of the paint to show so you can slightly overlap your paint colors, ensuring no wood is still showing.

Now use a foam brush to apply our paint, doing 3-4 coats before pulling up the tape. Be extra gentle with the tape so it doesn’t pull up any of the existing paint underneath.

painting a blue and pink diy tray

Step 5 – Paint Bottom

Allow your paint to fully dry before painting the bottom of your DIY tray. Then flip it over and paint a solid color on the back just to cover up the old oak wood. I used the navy blue paint on the bottom of all of my trays. This doesn’t have to be perfect, I did two coats and it looked fine for the bottom since no one will really see it.

painting navy blue diy tray

Step 6 – Add Hardware (Optional)

Now it’s time to add any hardware! I used cabinet pulls as handles on two of my trays and wooden beads (actually wooden doll heads, hence the hole doesn’t go all the way through) to create a raised look on my third tray.

(I left my handles as is, but if you find old ones while thrifting you can always paint them with a bit of spray paint!)

For handles, mark your screw placement and drill holes through your upcycled cabinet door. Then push the screws through the holes and screw on the handles.

drilling hole for handles on wooden tray

For the raised feet on my third tray, I dabbed some strong glue (I like DAP RapidFuse) on the wooden balls and glued them to the 4 corners of my tray.

wooden beads glued on diy tray as feet

Step 7 – Add Protective Pads To Bottom

Don’t skip this step! You don’t want your new DIY painted tray to scratch up your tables and counters.

I used these stick-on clear bumpers on the bottom of my trays to protect from scratching. They are self-adhesive, so easy to stick on quick. If you don’t have a pack of these already, I use them all over my house along with felt chair pads!

I stuck the clear bumpers on top of the screw heads (since I didn’t countersink my screws) and on the wooden feet of my trays. You could also use felt chair pads or something similar to protect your counter or table from scratches.

You can sort of see the clear bumpers in the photo below:


And that, my friends, is how I made these color-blocked DIY trays! Can you believe they are upcycled cabinet doors / drawer fronts?! It’s so fun and rewarding to turn old thrift store finds into something fresh and new!

painted diy tray with pink and blue strips and silver handles
painted diy trays made from old cabinet doors styled with plant on table

The larger square one has already found a home in the middle of our kitchen island with my new snake plant and a little candle. It adds such a pretty pop of color to our kitchen and feels like spring!

painted diy trays made from old cabinet doors styled with plant on table
painted diy tray with pink and blue strips and silver handles
painted diy trays made from old cabinet doors styled with plant on table

Check out all of the other Thrift Shop Challenge projects via the links below! My friends are sharing so many amazing thrift store makeover today!

Also, if you are working on any thrift store projects, use the hashtag #thriftshopchallenge on Instagram to share your projects! We’d all love to see what you’re working on!

Here are all of the other cool projects from this round of the Thrift Shop Challenge:

At Charlotte’s House // Making Joy & Pretty Things // Love & Renovations

Making Manzanita // Small Stuff Counts // Green With Decor // Holland Avenue Home

Looking for more thrifty projects? Take a look at my past Thrift Shop Challenge makeovers:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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