How to Update a Butler's Tray Table

Betty B
by Betty B
My mother passed down to me a mahogany/cherry Butler's Tray Table. It look like the one in this picture except that there is no medallion in the center, just wood. I'd like to paint it. Any ideas on colors or techniques or actually on anything about updating this tray table?
  21 answers
  • you can paint the legs or leave them if they look good then doing a marbleizing method on the top make it look like slab of marble with the veins you would see on a slab of marble.
  • Toni Yates Toni Yates on Sep 14, 2013
    Make your own chalk paint in a great color (I love aqua) and then distress it. I have also- as weird as it may sound- decoupaged with Mod Podge which would be cool for the top. Fabric or a fun giftwrap pattern works great.
  • CORINNE CORINNE on Sep 14, 2013
    Where are you going to use it? What are the main colors in that room, in your home? What are you favorite colors?
  • Beverly Brannan Beverly Brannan on Sep 14, 2013
    It appears to be an antique; mahogany/cherry?! Are you sure you want to paint it? I'd check with someone who knows about wood before changing the table's appearance. Just saying. . .
    • Regina Regina on Sep 14, 2013
      @Betty B I agree with Beverly Brannan. Your table is worth several hundred dollars if it isn't scratched up or damaged otherwise. I would not paint a valuable piece of furniture. @
  • Darlene Darlene on Sep 14, 2013
    Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. It is a bit pricy but so easy to use that it is well worth the price for a special piece for yourself. I love her French Linen. And check for all kinds of great ideas for adding something special to the top. I grew up learning how to refinish antique furniture and married the son of an antique dealer. It took me a LONG time to come around to the idea that painting good hardwood is not truly sinful. But if it is in YOUR home, it has to make you happy. And if years from now it makes someone else unhappy, it can always be refinished back to the stained finish.
  • Paula Vogel Paula Vogel on Sep 14, 2013
    I think I would paint the table 2 or 3 colors. The legs the darker. The top the darker and top it with stencil pattern and use one or two of the other colors. They have got so many stencil patterns and so many stencil companies. Then use a darker glaze "antique" all over to blend it together. You could get real creative and use colors and style to match your décor. I love stencils including the ones as far back as the Colonial homes. Do some exploring in the computer and even if you have a great public library like we do for what style you like. Just a suggestion. Good luck! Paula
  • Paula Vogel Paula Vogel on Sep 14, 2013
    PS I just remember the ones I like from Colonial days---Eaton Moses. You may not care for any of it but occasionally the brain works! Like to see what you decide to do with it. Looks like a good table. PV
  • Marie Marie on Sep 14, 2013
    IF it is antique and you paint it it may lose it's value. I would take it to someone who know his business and you trust to see what they say. If you have it refinished it will work well in any room. But if you paint it say blue you can only use it in a certain room.
  • Toni Yates Toni Yates on Sep 14, 2013
    Here's a link for 3 types of home-made chalk paint @ less than $7 qt. (Annie Sloan is around $30) and let me tell you, it's ee-pz! I really like the Plaster of Paris version in old or mis-tint paint. I have a couple of pieces I did on Pinterest. This one isn't my favorite but shows both the chalk paint (in blue-gray) and the mod-podged fabric front on an old, cheap desk.
  • Judy Judy on Sep 14, 2013
    I have one like that and an end table same style smaller with longer legs. Both tables are in very good condition, and I would not think of painting them. Just remember, different painting techniques come into style and usually go out when something new comes along. Then they can look dated. A nice wood finish is always in style.
  • Jane Frifkin Jane Frifkin on Sep 14, 2013
    I agree with Judy. I remember the old antiquing kits from years past. Everyone had green or red or (something even worse) antiqued furniture. Now when you see a remnant of that time you think "OMG what in the world were they thinking!!!" I can tell you that trying to remove it is no fun. I have a feeling all this painted furniture that we love right now will go the way of the green antiquing before long. If the table has any value I would just polish it and leave it alone. By the way...I have one too. It is beautiful and sits in my formal living room with a tray holding my collection of clear glass decanters. Very sparkly.
    • Betty B Betty B on Sep 15, 2013
      @Jane Frifkin remember the white & gold "antique"ing that was done in the 50's, 60's? haha. yes i understand.
  • Judith Arnold Judith Arnold on Sep 14, 2013
    Don't paint it---enjoy it !
  • Joan Joan on Sep 14, 2013
    I would not paint such a nice piece. It looks so beautiful the way it is now.
  • Tamara Tamara on Sep 17, 2013
    I agree with many out here....find a different piece of furniture to paint....leave this one intact for its present beauty and history it holds. How fortunate for you to have it!! :D It is scrumptious as is!!
  • Carol Carol on Jan 13, 2015
    If you must change this beautiful table, maybe instead of painting it you could make a new base out of pipe painted white or cream. But hold onto the original base if it is antique. Or you can get a large piece of stone scrap from kitchen counter fabricator to place on top of table top. This way you do not destroy the original table and can always change it back.
  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Nov 27, 2022

    Just do the top or just the centre part or just paint the frame.

  • It's very beautiful as it. I'm not sure I would paint it, but if you want to change the look and color, you could use a water based wood stain in a color and wash over it. You'll retain the wood look and grain, but totally change the style.

  • Mogie Mogie on May 01, 2023

    Thisi isnt a popular idea but I wouldn't paint over this wood. You will lose the value as soon as you paint it. Perhaps lighten the stain but don't paint it.

  • Clairissa Pickering Clairissa Pickering on Apr 20, 2024

    I am refinishing one now. It was my Moms. I am in the process of stripping it down to the base cherry wood. And then am going to see how light I can get it. I just want to update it by getting rid of the dark stain. And just keep it natural and light.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Apr 21, 2024

    My vote is to not paint it, it is beautiful as is. If there are nicks or scrapes, you can strip it, sand and stain.

  • Salvaged Inspirations Salvaged Inspirations on Apr 23, 2024

    Hi, you can also decorate it with any design you want using furniture transfers. You can easily add character by incorporating it. I have a butler's table DIY makeover where I painted it and styled it with furniture transfer. I hope this helps 😊 ~