Tray Chic

Several days before an event, I am often presented with a large bag of stuff from the neighborhood Duane Reade with the instructions to “…make pretty and display on a tray.” I see this stuff and it’s obvious that somebody has had a hay-day in the drugstore. Unless your friends are coming from a Bowery flophouse, there is no need to junk up the counter with every travel size toiletry from mouth wash to Mucinex. In the spirit of anticipating your guest’s needs and being a gracious host, there are a few essentials:

Tray Chic

  • A good candle. Not too sweet, not too pungent, and absolutely nothing that smells like baked goods. Splurge on an expensive candle – these days nice candles are as readily available as bottled water. I find that citrus or smoky floral scents are usually the best – crisp, clean and refreshing. Several of my personal favorites are Odalisque by Cire Trudon, Fleur d’Oranger by Minsenzir and Baies by Diptyque.
  • A bottle of fragrance is nice for a quick spritz. Nothing perfumy or heavy – only something light that will fade away in a few minutes. Santa Maria Novella Carnation, Eau Chic by Astier de Villatte or the inexpensive and perennial favorite, 4711.
  • Armenian papers. Brilliant! If somebody really has to do something unfortunate, these little bits of smoldering paper will wipe out the evidence. And of course a big box of matches.
  • Good hand lotion. I don’t use hand lotion so I have no suggestions here other than to make sure it is in a beautiful pump style bottle and smells clean or not at all.
  • A bottle of aspirin or better yet individual packets.
  • A bowl of individually wrapped breath mints. Easy to grab, one for now another for later.
  • Heavy paper hand towels and plenty of them.
  • Beautiful flowers – sweet violets, jasmine, peonies, Mexican tuberose, bundles of tulips…
  • Nice hand soap.  Go for some old-fashioned favorites with delicious smells like Roger & Gallet Citron or Penhaligons Quercus (latin for oak). Both lines have elegant, old-world packaging.

Now I realize there are other items that may be necessary for the women’s room however I don’t think Q-Tips or mouthwash are one of them. Sewing kits, nail polish, deodorant, nail files, dentil floss, pantyhose, lint rollers…please folks, why not teeth whitening strips and a curling iron? Give a stash of any or all of these products to the coat check attendant so if they become necessary at least they are on the premise. An amenity tray should be an elegant moment (in a usually banal bathroom) stacked with a few luxuries to personalize the space as if it were your own home. A few necessities that – like the rest of the decor – should be beautiful and special.


  • Barbera Brooks

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    Fabulous ideas – and here I am Southerner and thought us Southern girls put the H on hospitality – From reading this I have been humbled and now know I better get with the program! (I am still looking for decent looking affordable shower caps that are eco-friendly for my lady friends!)

  • Carol Anne

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    Oh this was brilliant…I want to print it out and give it to every event planner I know….this is an unforgettable tray, and what is the purpose of planning if not to set the event above and apart, and brilliant. Well done, well planned.

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