While many architectural features change in style over time, some features remain rather unchanging. One such feature in architecture is the corbel. Corbels have been used since the 1500s, and today are still known for being an attractive and functional addition to any building.
What Are Corbels?
Corbels, sometimes called brackets or cornices, are L-shaped wedges that mount onto the upper corner of a room where the ceiling meets the wall. When used on a building’s exterior, corbels are often mounted to the crease where an outside wall meets the roof.
Corbels can be decorative, supportive, or both. Though all corbels feature a right angle on one side to fit snugly in a corner, the underside of a corbel is often carved into scrolling shapes or appealing geometric designs. Traditional corbels on cathedrals were even carved into frightening faces, which churchgoers believed helped ward off evil.
What Corbel Styles Are Common Today?
Here are just a few styles of corbels you might notice in today’s commercial and residential architecture:
One of the most popular designs in today’s corbels feature botanicals, like twisting vines, budding roses, or even tree branches. These details tend to give a space an antique, aristocratic appearance that is reminiscent of high-class Victorian style. Images of grapes and grape vines are also common, and pay homage to traditional Greek carving and architecture.
Craftsman/Mission Style Corbels
If you prefer less frilly architectural details, mission-style corbels might be perfect for your space. Craftsman and mission styles are known for simplicity and strength of design. Mission corbels might feature one or two decorative lines, but very little scrollwork or beading.
Though corbels are thought to be timeless or old-fashioned details, corbels can also be made to look like they belong in contemporary-style homes. These corbels favor a more geometric, clean silhouette, and they tend to be less ornate than floral corbels.
Unique Corbel Sizing Options
Traditionally, large corbels were used to support ceilings and roof overhangs, but today small corbels are also used as a decorative support for counter tops, fireplace mantels, and shelves. Small corbels tend to be a bit cheaper, yet still come in great stylistic varieties. You can even order custom-sized mini corbels to meet your home’s unique architectural needs.
Wood carving is one of the oldest kinds of art, dating back over 400,000 years. By the time corbels were invented, woodworkers and craftspeople knew how to make them beautiful. From the 16th century to today, this architectural feature has graced cathedrals and family homes alike. With so many different styles available, you might be able to find large or small corbels that fit perfectly in your own home.