year in review

The Best Things I Bought This Year Are These Enamel Trays

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Writers

If you’ve read any of our Strategist editor hauls, you’ll know that our writers and editors buy a lot of stuff, and even though we think carefully about each thing that goes into our carts, there are still standouts. To close out the year, we’ve asked our staffers to write about the best thing they bought in the past 12 months. Today, Emma Wartzman on the enamel tray she loves so much that she’s bought one for every room in her house. 

After my rock-collecting phase fizzled out when I was around 10 years old, I’ve never been one to amass a particular type of object. That said, as I look around my apartment at the ripe age of 30, it’s clear that I have a thing for trays. While I wouldn’t call it a purposeful collection, it seems that I’ve inadvertently ended up with lots of them in different shapes, sizes, materials, colors, and patterns, sitting on tables, shelves, and counters in just about every room.

While I love them all, an unassuming one has become my very favorite — so much so that I now own five. They’re made of enamel and intended as artist’s palettes for mixing paints on. (You can find similar ones at most art-supply stores and all around the internet.) I first heard about them early last year from Dan Pelosi, who told me he uses several at his annual holiday cookie-decorating party to set out frosting and tools. He described them as not precious and easy to clean, and for just $18 each, I was convinced to buy a couple right away.

Those went in my kitchen. One is on top of my island and holds cooking essentials like salts, pepper, honey, and olive oil. Another is hidden away, corralling deli container lids at the bottom of a particularly unsightly cabinet (because the tray was so cheap, I didn’t mind not displaying it). A few months later, I hosted a bunch of friends and found myself without enough platters to serve all the food I’d prepared. I casually (and temporarily) dumped out those deli container lids and turned the tray into a vessel for a mound of roasted potatoes. People commented on how nice it looked, and that night, I ordered another to have on hand for that same purpose. It became particularly useful in the summer, sturdy enough to go outside to the grill. It held piles of smoky corn cobs without wobbling, and with its high sides, I wasn’t worried that the juices from some charred chicken thighs would spill over.

In a bathroom organization spree just a few months ago, I replaced a marble tray that was holding my skin care and makeup with yet another enamel number. Even though it’s been subjected to inevitable oil drips and a damp environment, the material has proven to be very easy to wipe down. Most recently, I bought a bigger size (about that of a half sheet pan) to keep items like coasters and candles on my coffee table. In this last spot, it especially looks more expensive than it is, the bright white a nice contrast to the wood tones in my living room, with its navy trim that varies slightly by tray.

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These Enamel Trays Were the Best Things I Bought This Year