Before + After – Lettered Tray Table

before and after - printers tray table

Years ago, my Mom carted this beat up table home from someone’s trash pile.  Dumpster diving isn’t exactly a competitive sport up here in Westchester – most wouldn’t be caught dead getting out of their black SUV to throw a vintage castaway in the back. Ok, maybe I’m not being fair. They wouldn’t get out of their Mini. But my Mom’s an old pro and I love her for not letting go of her “One Man’s Trash” credo. She passed that credo, and this table, onto me.

 before and after - printers tray table

The table then sat in my place with its fate undecided for months. It had a worn look that dangerously teetered on shabby chic (blegh!) with its perfectly chipped paint, cabriole legs and Queen Anne profile. But it also had a recessed tray top that was begging to be crafted.

Finally one day we had the idea to use that cool old box of ceramic marquee letters that Mom scored at a thrift shop. I pulled the title of one of my favorite Talking Heads songs and used white premixed tile grout to arrange the letters at random around the quote (with a few hidden messages).

before and after printers table tray

before and after printers table tray

Shit was fun. To finish the table and make it usable, Mom and I cut a template from kraft paper and took it to the glass shop to have a piece of tempered glass cut for the top, which costs under $50.

This table is now one of my favorite pieces in the house because it was the first thing I made when we bought Lil’ Spot. Between the sans-serif font of the letters and the white on white canvas, I think we’ve successfully rescued it from its shabby chic bad dream. Maybe one day I’ll seal the deal and sand down the driftwood-y finish and paint it hot pink or cobalt blue. Maybe. IDK. Should I?

before and after printers tray table


before and after printers tray table


before and after printers tray table


Supplies Needed:

Good to Know:

  • the pre-mixed grout is latex so you can mix any color acrylic craft paint into it to change the color – just remember that since it’s already white, your color will be lightened…
  • the grout has the consistency of brownie mix, as my Mom puts it in her classes – so you can use it on any vessel or surface, really, and this project translates really well to pots, vases, plaques, etc.
  • when you’re working with the grout work pretty quickly; it dries within about 20 minutes so it’s a good idea to lay out your pattern, if you’re going to use one, beforehand so the grout isn’t drying while you’re figuring out what you’re going to do
  • if you’re using objects or letters that are different sizes, make sure you set aside 4 pieces that are the thickest and set them at each corner so your glass rests level
  • definitely download the Talking Heads song – you won’t regret it




  1. Seriously? That table was beautiful to start with, and then what did you go and do? You made it magnifique!! It’s the coolest transformation I’ve ever seen and I am totally charmed by the spell out of “This must be the place”.


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