I'm convinced everyone should have this one item in their kitchen (and I've found the perfect one for less than $15)

A kitchen tray is the perfect catch-all item for your kitchen island – here's why and where to buy

A kitchen island with decorative tray
(Image credit: Erick Kruk. Design: Cdot Design Studio)

It's hard to maintain a perfectly styled and clutter-free kitchen island. Often dubbed the heart of the home, the kitchen is a place where households gather and where we entertain guests. Inevitably, clutter accumulates. It's unavoidable, but this simple addition is the perfect tool that is both decorative and functional.

‘When it comes to such a functional space less is more,’ says Carola Pimentel of Miami-based Assure Interiors. ‘A kitchen island is a structure that should remain relatively uncluttered so we like to contain our decorative updates in large catch-all trays.' Off the back of Carola's advice, the kitchen island tray is a total game-changer that has solved all my cluttered island woes. Here's how it works and where to buy one (including one that's under $15!)

How to style your kitchen island tray

A kitchen island with decorative tray

(Image credit: Shannon McGrath. Design: Steffen Welsch Architects)

A kitchen island tray enables you to group items together in an aesthetic way, providing a catch-all that can minimize clutter while providing a stylish kitchen island centerpiece. ‘Trays add an extra layer and can be extremely elegant and well-designed,’ says Jeffrey Beers International’s design lead, Pierre Josselin. ‘They are also ideal for a quick ‘grab-and-go’ when you need to take something from the kitchen to another area of the home.’

Use your tray to create a stylish vignette - an assortment of candles, flowers, or plants, and a decorative vase might be a nice mix of objects. Play around with shape and size with your decorative objects placed on the tray to create a well-styled vignette. ‘Place a tall vase with branches or flowers of the same variety on your tray,’ advises Carola Pimentel of Assure Interiors. ‘Then add two more accessories of varying heights for an interesting and contained tablescape.’

Alternatively, use your tray as a practical catch-all. 'There is a big difference between styling an island for a photoshoot and styling it for real life and everyday family use,' interior designer Anna Popov reminds us. 'For daily use, we like to stick to practical arrangements and use functional items to double as styling props and centerpieces on the kitchen island.' You might even want to use a tray for even more practical kitchen additions like salt pepper, vinegar, and oils if you also use your island as a space to dine.

What style should your kitchen tray be?

Think about the style of the tray you select and how it works with the wider look of your kitchen. ‘A beautiful tray on an island is like a piece of jewelry for your kitchen,’ says Annbritt Newey of ABN Design. So what shape should your island tray be? Round is a great way to bring some organic, sinuous shape to your kitchen and soften the harsh angles of your kitchen island. ‘A round tray works best, especially in a room which often has many straight angles,’ says Carola. Rectangular might be a good shape if you have a large, slim island. This shape takes up less width but has room for a collection of objects. A rectangular tray can also slot nicely on the edge of your island or against any adjoining wall if you have a kitchen peninsula.

Material is another question. There are so many different kitchen island tray options out there. I like the wooden look best, which brings warmth and a Scandi feel, but a touch of marble can also give a certain elegance and is a way to make your kitchen look expensive. It also might be a little more durable against spillages in the kitchen.

9 kitchen island trays to buy now

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.