Coming Up Roses

Creating real, unique and personal homeware items doesn’t have to cost a lot.

by Mindy Cook

Kelly Doust is a self-confessed junk-junkie who can upcycle, recycle, repair or repaint almost any item she discovers at her local thrift shops, garage sales or flea markets. It gives an old item a new lease of life, while making good economic and environmental sustainability sense. Here she shares her tips for reinvigorating a well-loved wooden serving tray with a little decoupage, from her latest book The Crafty Minx at Home.

Kelly explains: It’s easy to consider most decoupage projects a mammoth undertaking, consisting of many days of work, sanding, cutting, pasting, applying lacquer and patience in allowing drying time – and indeed it is on larger projects.

But the skill works equally well on smaller items, such as trays and bedside table surfaces, and takes very little time in reality, when kept nearby for quick coats of lacquer. These are easy to apply in quiet moments between other activities. I’d owned this bamboo tea platter for many years, but it was starting to look tired, with its chipped paint and stains from too many overflowing pots of Russian Caravan. I painted it a rosy pink, added a handful of paper blooms chopped from an otherwise trashed book of Redouté’s Roses, and a Marie Antoinette-inspired postcard from Versailles that my friend Katrina gave me, in the centre. All in all, it took less than a couple of hours to complete and I’m thrilled with the outcome, extending the life of my tray for many years to come and allowing me to serve tea sans a pretty tea towel underneath in future. Tip You can buy readymade decoupage glue from craft stores, but a less expensive option is to mix three parts white PVA glue, such as Aquadhere, with one part water. Good old Clag school paste can also be used, although it’s better to strengthen it a little with one part PVA to three parts Clag. If you’re using very delicate paper cutouts, it’s also better to find a rubber roller to remove air bubbles, rather than risk tearing your work with a ruler.

You will need

  • A wooden serving tray or platter
  • Paper for decoupage
  • Small, sharp scissors
  • Sandpaper and block
  • Cloth
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Digital camera
  • Decoupage glue
  • Ruler or rubber roller
  • Lacquer


Step 1
Chop up your paper pieces and arrange them over the platter in a pleasing formation. Use your digital camera to snap a quick image, just to remind you where each piece should go when you’re ready to apply glue.
Step 2
Prepare the wood by lightly sanding its surface, and use a damp cloth to remove any dust until it is clean and smooth.
Step 3
Paint over the surface with two to three coats of acrylic paint, allowing the correct drying time stated on the tin between coats.
Step 4
Apply decoupage glue to the surface of the tray and position your paper pieces on the glue. Gently brush more glue over the surface of the pieces and work any air bubbles to the edges. When you’ve applied each layer, use a rubber roller or ruler to gently apply pressure and skim the surface of the paper, squeezing bubbles and glue out from between the paper and the tray. Wipe away any excess glue with a damp cloth.
Step 5
Allow to dry for at least 24 hours.
Step 6
Once you’re happy with the paper arrangement and it’s all completely dry, apply a coat of lacquer with your brush using small, careful strokes. Allow to dry.
Step 7
Apply a further two coats, allowing ample drying time in between.

You’re ready to roll.


Kelly Doust has shared her passion for sewing, crafting and reinventing in The Crafty Minx at Home, where she shows readers how to make and collect for a lifetime and longer, creating the treasured family heirlooms of tomorrow.

This simple crafts and DIY vintage-style book is brimming with personality and offers a wealth of ideas for recycling tired vintage items.

Kelly is also the author of The Crafty Minx, The Crafty Kid, A Life in Frocks and Minxy Vintage and now The Crafty Minx at Home, all available at Can Do Books and major booksellers.

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