What are Corbels?

Sometimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest differences. The same goes for adding details in the kitchen to create a whole new look and feel. With corbels, it is an easy touch to add. Corbels are 90° architectural brackets the once were primarily used to support architectural structures and now add more of a decorative flair to the room while still being functional.

From countertops to shelves, mantels, island bars, and cabinets, the brackets are formed from a myriad of materials, plaster, metal, wood, resin, and stone, displaying clean, undetailed accents to intricate and ornate designs.

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A Bit of History

Corbels are architectural structures that have been around for centuries. Originally carved into stone walls or as separate pieces to be later attached, these bracket structures endured years of many heavy walls, roofs, and overhangs. The name “corbel” is derived from the word “corvellus,” which is the Old French Latin-based term meaning raven. This reference is due to the beak-like shape of the corbels.

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The original corbels were formed from stone or concrete. Some of the time they were carved into the walls and others they were cut from a block of stone and later attached to the walls. With the arrival of the Victorian Era, a new concept and material were introduced for corbels: wood. These were smaller and lighter than their previous companions, allowing for the expansion of their versatility in community buildings, libraries, cathedrals, and eventually homes.

This versatility shifted the primary use of the corbels. Once seen as more of a functional structure, which was later decorated, it was now regarded as a decorative piece with some functional and structural purposes. This shift in the utilization of corbels has continued on through the centuries and remains the same today.

Designs and carving options are limitless for decorating wooden corbels. The Traditional style offers designs influenced by nature with delicate and detailed flowers, vines, leaves, and fruits. The popular Acanthus Leaf style is common among the Traditional corbels. Simple lines, shapes, and cuts are offered for more of the clean Modern and Minimalist homes.

Corbels could also be carved with angels, animals, and other lifelike characters and placed around the home and kitchen. A good rule of thumb when using corbels as decoration should be kept in mind: they should look as if they were made for support and placed accordingly.

Corbel Styles

Over the centuries, ideas for new styles and designs of corbels flourished, adapting, changing, and growing recognizable to the styles known today. There are several different styles and here are a few listed.

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Hand- or machined-carved, wood corbels add a unique flair to any elegant or rustic kitchens when painted or stained to match the kitchen cabinets.

Mission Style

Mission Style corbels are also called the Shaker style referencing the similarities of the vertical lines and flat, recessed panels of the Shaker cabinet doors. These were influenced by the late 18th and early 19th-century Spanish Missions in colonial California. Contemporary kitchens use this style of corbels.

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These corbels are usually seen in contemporary kitchens for their clean, curved, and flat surfaces.

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Acanthus Leaf

The Acanthus Leaf is a Classic Greek influenced corbel popularized by its detailed and intricate leaf designs. Mediterranean kitchens utilize this corbel for an authentic feel.


Simplified, sleek, and flat-surfaced corbels with little to no detail describe the style of the Modern corbel. Modern kitchens typically use this corbel on kitchen islands and shelves.

Photo Credit: Houzz

Wrought Iron

Corbels constructed with wrought iron have are supportive by nature as well as an intricate metal decoration. They work well in Spanish, industrial, traditional, and Mediterranean kitchens.