Add Vintage Character with Corbels!

Add vintage charm to your home with corbels! (Wait, what are corbels?)

Corbels are something you may have come across in a hardware store, on an architecture tour, or while skimming the instructions of a DIY project. But what is a corbel? We'll give you a quick definition, along with some tips for using decorative corbels in your home.

In classical architecture, a corbel is a structural support piece that helps hold up an overhanging weight like a balcony. This basic architectural technique is actually hundred and hundreds of years old. Elaborately carved corbels are frequently seen in buildings from the Medieval Era up to today.

On a smaller scale, corbels can be used structurally to hold up shelves and give added support to tables, cabinets, and doorways, or as a decorative flourish to add classical elegance to furniture and architecture. In your own home, corbels are a simple and effective way of adding visual interest and antique charm to your space. Read on for a few ways you can use these versatile home accents.

Replace shelving brackets

Maybe you have a convenient little shelf that you really like, but it came with some boring metal brackets that don't fit in with your vintage-inspired farmhouse aesthetic. If they're removable, swap those cookie-cutter brackets out for a pair of corbels. Ornate carvings, chippy paint, and eye-catching textures are the kind of details that completely transform the look of an ordinary shelf.

You can also create your own shelf from scratch with a pair of corbels and a plank of reclaimed wood! Just be sure to check that the wood isn't warped, you take care of any sanding or staining needed, and that you've hung everything straight so nothing slides off your beautiful new shelf.

When hanging anything heavy or weight-bearing you'll want to find a stud to mount to. If that's not an option and you want to mount a lighter shelf to drywall, be sure to use drywall screws, anchors, toggle bolts, and the like as appropriate for the load. (Do you want us to get more in depth about exactly how to mount shelves in another blog post? Let us know in the comments!)

Adorn floating shelves with corbels

Floating shelves are shelves that hang on the wall without any brackets or visible hardware. This gives them the appearance of "floating" there on the wall. This more minimal look is sometimes perfect, but sometimes adding that final touch is just what your shelving needed. You can customize the appearance of floating shelves by adding decorative corbels. Simply mount the corbel to the wall underneath your floating shelf. While this isn't structurally necessary for a floating shelf, it's a great way to add antique inspired appeal. You can also apply this technique to the underside of cabinets for that farmhouse kitchen touch.

Corbels are made from a variety of materials, such as wood, metal, stone, and even plaster. For purely decorative corbels, you can choose any material that catches your eye and suits the decor of your space.

Create unique side tables

For night stands, entryway tables, or other small side tables, consider mounting them to the wall with corbels, rather than placing a standard table on the floor. In areas like foyers with limited space, forgoing table legs can give much needed breathing room. Low wall-mounted shelves on either side of the bed are a creative replacement for night stands that avoids the feeling of too much furniture in a small or minimalist bedroom.

Like the shelving mentioned above, you can either remove the legs from an extant side table, or select a piece of flat wood to pair with your corbels. For enhanced rustic style, use reclaimed barn wood or wood with visible grain and knots. Use a whitewash or chalk paint finish or visible distressing for a more antique look.

Enhance doorways and windows

A fun and unexpected way to use corbels to decorate your home is to add them to doorways, room dividers, and window frames.

That builder grade room divide between the kitchen and the dining room may be a barely noticeable wood frame now, but place a pair of ornate, vintage style corbels in the upper corners and you've suddenly got a conversation-starting architectural detail. This also works wonderfully for open doorways between rooms or to accent where exposed beams meet the walls. For a bold visual statement, paint your corbels to match the trim in a color that contrasts with the walls to really draw the eye.

For windows, use corbels as interior accents around recessed windows or to add some visual interest to that difficult-to-decorate space between window frames. And don't be afraid to take your decor goals outdoors! Adding corbels to the exterior of windows can make your home truly stand out from the crowd.

Have you tried decorating with corbels? Have you seen other uses we didn't touch on here? Let us know in the comments!


5 comments


  • Dylan

    As someone who loves a DIY approach to most things, these were great for making my own shelves. Thanks for the suggestion!


  • Mary

    Added the vintage white corbels to the corner of my doorway and it added the PERFECT vintage touch to my living room. LOVE


  • Rahim

    Wow! I didn’t even think about how creative I could get with shelving. Corbels will change the game!


  • Janet

    Thanks for nice post. Was thinking what sort of corbels to use perfect timing!


  • Sandra

    Love these creative ideas!


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