Like an extra pair of hands, a tray can be helpful in countless ways. Although simple in design, its value goes far beyond the main function of bearing canapés, cocktails or tea for two. For one thing, everything looks classier when placed on a tray. And when the server or platter is an object of beauty, that makes it flat-out fabulous.Get into spring and summer mode with these white-trimmed lacquered trays from Plantation. Featuring wood construction, they're available in five tropical colors. 15 by 12 inches and $125 at www.plantationdesign.com.
Tapas and other small bites will look appetizing indeed atop this Blomus-designed stainless-steel and porcelain serving tray.www.nova68.com.
This handsome tray is a fine example of folk art tole painting, which dates to 18th-century New England. It's formed of pressed sheet iron and hand-painted, measuring 24 by 18 inches. $119 through Wisteria at www.wisteria.com.
Go dotty with this black-and-white number from Jayson Home & Garden. Handcrafted of stoneware and porcelain and measuring 14.75 by 6.5 inches, it's $135 at www.jaysonhomeandgarden.com.
The open pattern on this Bisanzio tray is almost too pretty to cover up, so best to pair it with see-through glass and plastic items.
Manufactured in Italy of bent wood in two sizes and three colors. $160 or $175 from TableArt at www.tableartonline.com.
Inspired by folk art and the bright colors of Central America, designer Alexander Girard created this Millerstripe-pattern tray of high-grade duroplast. It's 18 by 14 inches, made in Germany and available at the Museum of Modern Art Design Store. $80 at www.momastore.org.
Put a little (mirror-polished) steel in your serving ritual with this gorgous Recinto tray by Alessi. Available in two sizes, $168 and $196, from Velocity at www.velocityartanddesign.com.
You want sparkle with that martini? Then serve your drinks on this Preston Tray by Z Gallerie. The faux croc finish is lined with rhinestones for lots of flash. There's lots of surface, too, with measurements of 21 by 13 inches. $59.95 at www.zgallerie.com.