Today we’re transforming discarded tin trays into French Country-inspired decoration for Easter and spring. We’ll be painting layers and using antiquing techniques to create a vintage, old world feel. I’ll take you step-by-step through the process of changing something unwanted into something you will love for years to come.
French Country Flavor for Easter This Year
I’m going to make a confession. My home has never been decorated for Easter. I usually have some spring-y things here and there throughout the house, like a some faux flowers and garden books. But I’ve never focused specifically on Easter.
This year I decided to remedy that a little, since Easter is a pretty significant Christian holiday. Usually by this time of year my thoughts are solely focused on planning and working in my garden. But I am more interested, lately, in creating a beautiful Easter environment in the home. And I’m going to do it using some homemade items, like these French Country-inspired trays.
Using Second-Hand Tin Trays and Spring-Themed Napkins
The trays were found at a second-hand store for $1-$2/each. The spring napkins were found at TJ Maxx in the checkout line. I saw them and had to have them. They are adorable. I have no idea if you can locate these napkins at your local TJ Maxx or not, but any spring design will do for this project.
The trays can be any shape or size, as long as they aren’t larger than the napkins. If they are larger you will have to do a lot of cutting, pasting, and aligning, which I wouldn’t want to do. The decorative trays will turn out much better than simple trays. So look for lots of flowers, flourishes, and beading along the rim of the trays.
- 2-Tin Trays (with decorative elements)
- Waverly “Mineral” Chalk Paint
- Baking Soda
- “Loire Earth” Pigment Powder, by Amy Howard Collection (or brand of your choice)
- “My Herb Garden” Milk Paint by Amy Howard Collection
- Rub’n Buff European Gold
- Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)
- Mod Podge
- Light Wax in Puck Form by Amy Howard Collection (or brand of your choice)
- Dark Wax in Puck Form by Amy Howard Collection (or brand of your choice)
- Dust of Ages by Amy Howard Collection (no substitues)
- Bristle brushes
- Sea sponge
- Spray Paint, off-white or gray
Note on Materials:
All of the Amy Howard Collection products work together to produce a really yummy “old world” look and feel. It’s perfect for creating that French Country aesthetic. You are welcome to use other products as substitutes but I cannot guarantee the results. Also, I am not pushing these products to benefit myself in any way. I get nothing from your purchase. They’re just really great products and I want to share them with you.
Step #1: Adding the Base Layer of Paint
A note: after finishing this project I decided that I should have done a base layer in spray paint, or latex before the chalk paint. This will create a better foundation for the project. So, I suggest doing that now. Choose a color that will be complimentary (in case it peeks through) like an off-white, or gray. Allow the paint to dry before continuing.
- Now, pour about a 1/2 cup of Waverly “Mineral” Chalk Paint into a bowl and then add about the same amount of baking soda. Maybe just a little less. Mix well, until the lumps are gone, and the consistency is like whipped sour cream. You can easily make more paint as you need it. (The baking soda creates a rich texture that adds depth and substance to the piece.)
- With a bristle brush, give the tin trays two good coats of “Mineral” paint, allowing to dry in between coats.
Step #2: Applying the Spring Themed Napkins
Your napkins do not have to look exactly like mine. Though I do encourage a floral design to suggest spring and the French Country theme.
- First, take a napkin and rub a corner of it between your thumb and forefinger until the white backing comes away from the print. Carefully remove the white backing (it should look like tissue paper) and discard. This will help to remove bulk from the napkin and create a smoother application.
- Brush a generous amount of Mod Podge to the bottom of the tray. Be careful not to get glue onto the edges or rim of the tray. You don’t want the napkin sticking in unwanted places.
- Now carefully place the napkin onto the glue, making sure your design is lined up the way you want.
- Smooth out very carefully with your hands and fingers. The napkin can easily crinkle or tear.
- Once it’s smoothed, use an exacto knife to cut away the excess napkin along the crease of the tray where the bottom meets the edge.
- Finish off this step by applying a top coat of Mod Podge to the napkin. This will continue to smooth and seal the napkin to the tray, especially the edges.
Step #3: Adding the French Country Flair
At this point we will create an aged appearance by adding layers of milk paint. If you’ve never worked with milk paint, then be aware that the color dries in a muted tone but comes alive again when waxed or sealed.
- Mix “The Herb Garden” Milk Paint by Amy Howard (according to directions on the package). Or use a green milk paint of your choice. Using a moistened sea sponge, sparsely dab the green paint around the edges of the tray. Do not cover the whole area. We still want to see the “Mineral” paint coming through. Let dry thoroughly.
- Mix the “Loire Earth” Pigment Powder according to directions. With a moistened sponge lightly dab the earthy red paint sparsely onto the tray. Too much will ruin the effect. The point of this layer is to suggest rusting or aging, but in the prettiest of ways. I used my fingers to smudge the paint a little to help with the illusion. Let dry.
Note: During this process you will most likely get some milk paint onto your spring design. Simply take a moistened artist brush and lightly brush over the paint with the water. Then take a cloth or napkin and wipe the paint clean.
Step #4: Adding Gold Touches to the French Country Tray
This subtle, but beautiful, detail makes such a difference when creating something “old”. The gold highlights help those decorative elements pop and come alive.
- Add a small amount of acetone (nail polish remover) to a cup or bowl. Squeeze a small amount of Rub’n Buff European Gold onto a paper plate or piece of cardboard. A little goes a long way.
- Gently dab your brush into the acetone and offload (remove as much excess as possible). You want very little acetone on the brush or it will dilute the gold color too much and start removing your paint job. The acetone helps the gold go on smoother, so it’s a necessary evil. Just use it conservatively. Rub the brush into the gold, mixing in the acetone well. And gently apply to the highest points of the decorative elements. When you find the Rub’n Buff thick and difficult to work with, repeat mixing in the acetone. Continue highlighting the elements on the frame until you have the desired effect.
- Let the gold dry.
Step #5: Wax On, But Don’t Wax Off
I’ve taken some old world painting technique classes and these next steps are crucial details to creating that aged look and feel. It’s possible for you to substitute the Amy Howard brand of waxes (but they must be in puck form) but you will have to acquire the “Dust of Ages” product. You can skip that step but I’m going to reaffirm the importance of small details when creating vintage projects. Like I said in the beginning of this post, I do not benefit in any way from you purchasing these products. I’m just sharing my knowledge with you.
The light and dark waxes work complementary to each other. But they cannot be applied at the same time or you will essentially create a third color. Apply only one wax at a time and allow them to come to tack before applying the next.
APPLYING THE LIGHT WAX
- Apply the Amy Howard Light Wax (puck) to the tray using a bristle brush. You can be somewhat generous with the light wax but don’t overdo it. It’s okay to leave crevices without wax because it will create more depth of color. Allow to come to tack before applying the dark wax
- WHAT DOES “COME TO TACK” MEAN? The wax has come to tack when you place your ring finger on the frame and it gently tugs. It should not feel wet.
APPLYING THE DARK WAX
- Apply the Amy Howard Dark Wax (puck) with a CLEAN, DRY BRUSH. Do not use the same brush as the light wax. Be very sparing when using the dark wax. Do not dab or push the wax into the crevices. Gently brush around the edges and highlights of the tray. As Amy Howard says, “you can quickly ruin a piece by applying too much dark wax”.
Allow the dark wax to come to tack and then you can move on to the Dust of Ages. Hopefully, you can see all of the layering and waxing bringing a wonderfully aged feel to the project.
Step #6: Putting the Dust Back
It seems a little ironic that we spend so much time removing dust from the surfaces our belongings and now we are deliberately adding dust to our project. But that’s exactly what’s going to give us our finishing detail. You know that dust settles into the nooks and crannies and crevices of old, old pieces, so we’re going to replicate that appearance.
ADDING THE DUST OF AGES
- When the dark wax comes to tack, it’s time to add the Dust of Ages. This product produces the appearance of great age. Using a clean bristle brush, dip into the container of dust. Gently tap off the excess and then dab it around the edges of the tray. Be a little bit generous with the dust, but not wasteful. Work your way around the decorative elements of the tray with the dust, but don’t dust the spring design.
- Pick up the tray and tap off the excess dust. Then use a lint-free cloth to buff the edges of the tray, removing the dust from all the high points but leaving it in the crevices of the decorative elements. You can buff off any area that you feel is “too much”. The result should be subtle.
The French Country Easter Tray is finished!
I’m so in love with the delicate, softness of the French Country aesthetic. It gives off a romantic vibe, but it’s not nauseating. The aesthetic is at once sophisticated enough to adorn estates but rustic, too, like a humble country cottage. The style encompasses many of the “feels” that I desire to experience in my home. I’m excited to not only decorate my dining table with these French Country trays but to give a few away as gifts.
How will you incorporate this project into your Easter/spring decor this year? I wanted mine to display some eggs or candles. Here are some final images:
Final Thoughts on the French Country Tray Project
Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the outcome of this project. I definitely had my reservations. But these French Country trays turned out so great! I’m very happy with them. If you’re at the end of this post, I’m going to assume you’re either trying it or planning on trying it. Hopefully, you are enjoying the fruits of your labors as well.
Now if we can just get spring to come. We’re still experiencing snow flurries today. So, I’m currently bundled up in a blanket, thinking very seriously about taking a nap. 🙂 Maybe I will allow myself that luxury today. But of course, I have more Easter and Spring projects planned for sharing here on the blog. I also have some home and garden projects that I will try to share here as well. They may not all be French Country themed but you can bet that they will have some kind of vintage or old world flair. Until next time. (Go take a nap!) — Jayme