What are Corbels?

It is sometimes the simple act of adding a few well-placed details to create a whole new kitchen. Corbels are an easy way to update the kitchen and add a little more life and style to the room.

These architectural structures are 90° brackets used as decorative or supportive pieces for cabinets, under counters, shelves, mantels, stoves, and island bars. Crafted from many materials – wood, stone, plaster, metal, and resin – they can be very ornate and detailed or simple and clean.

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A Bit of History

Corbels have been around for centuries in the architectural world. Cut into or from stone, these mighty structures have held up many heavy items, such shelves, roofs, and walls, over the years. Based on their beak-like shape, the name “corbel” was derived from the Old French Latin-based word “corvellus,” meaning raven.

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Originally constructed from stone or concrete, corbels were either carved within the stone wall itself as a solid piece or formed as a separate piece and later attached. During the Victorian Era, new wooden concepts of the corbel were introduced, allowing the trend to disperse into other buildings: libraries, cathedrals, smaller community buildings, and eventually homes.

As these circulated through the Victorian society the utilization of the corbels shifted. Increasing in popularity, the wood corbels were utilized in a more artistic light rather than a functional and structural component. For stone and concrete, the focus was on the structural and functional aspect of the corbel before designed with carvings. With the new concept of wood, the decorative design of the corbel was the main focus, followed up by the assigned use of being a decoration or a support structure. This change in focus for corbels has continued on through the years and still remains as the primary focus for architecture today.

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There are endless design and carving options when it comes to decorative wood corbels. Traditional, nature-inspired designs include everything from intricate and unique flower patterns to delicate and detailed vines, grapes, and leaves, such as the Acanthus Leaf style. The Modern and Minimalist take on corbels offers simple shapes, cuts, and designs for homes of a more clean, contemporary style.

Animals, angels, and other lifelike characters also cultivate interest for corbel designs. When it comes to decorative corbels, there is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: even though the corbels may be only for decoration, it should look as though they were made for support.

Corbel Styles

Over the years, new styles were invented, formed, and altered to the ones we have today. Let’s take a peek and see what styles would look good in your kitchen.

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These corbels are usually found in the kitchen as they are either machined or hand-carved wood. They are stained or painted to match the kitchen cabinets as a style enhancement and work well with the rustic and elegant style of kitchens.

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Mission Style

The corbels of this style mimic the Shaker cabinet door style with the flat, recessed panels and vertical lines. It is why this corbel is also referred to as the Shaker style. The late 18th and early 19th century Spanish missions located in colonial California influenced its design, which now works well in contemporary kitchens.

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Curved corbels have no details with flat surfaces, but are shaped and designed with curves to create a clean look. These work well in contemporary kitchens.

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Acanthus Leaf

This Classic Greek-inspired corbel has an intricate and detailed leaf design, perfect for an authentic Mediterranean kitchen.

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These sleek, simplified, flat-surfaced corbels have no details. The Modern corbel works well in the Modern kitchen as decorative and functional pieces on islands that reach to the floor.

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Photo Credit: Houzz

Wrought Iron

The Wrought Iron corbels provide both support and decoration to a kitchen and are versatile in many styles. These intricate metal pieces work well in Mediterranean, Spanish, traditional, and industrial kitchens.

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