Everything You Need to Know About Corbels Before Buying

image of decorative corbel model

When considering design features for the restoration of a period property, or when thinking of additional elements to feature in a new build, corbels may be suggested as a possibility. But, you may not be familiar with them. This is why we have provided some in-depth information on corbels, their history, and their purposes in architecture or interior design.

Read on to learn more or contact us right away if you are ready to discuss corbel designs and decorative elements that you require for an intended work project.

What are Corbels?

A corbel is a structural element within architecture. When used in a structure, by tradition it is likely to be made of wood, stone, or metal, but can also be made from brick, and it protrudes from a wall to carry a superincumbent weight. An example of a superincumbent weight might be that of a balcony situated above. The corbels themselves are built into walls to a depth that allows the pressure on the embedded portion to counteract the load on the exposed portion.

The word “corbel” comes from Old French and derives from the Latin corbellus, a diminutive of corvus, meaning “raven”. This name refers to the beak-like appearance of the feature. French people also refer to a bracket-corbel, which is typically a load-bearing internal feature, as a corbeau, meaning “crow”.


image of corbel plaster cast

Plaster Corbel Designs

Fibrous plaster corbels and corbel brackets are not designed to be load-bearing. Instead, they are ornamental features that are installed to bring decoration to areas in an interior that may draw the eye. These points include doorways, shelving, and fireplace mantels.


Similar to corbels, consoles are S-shaped structural members where the upper part of the feature is larger than the lower or outer part. These are applied to the feature as a separate element as opposed to being built into the architecture as part of the continuous masonry course. They differ from corbels because they are pieces applied to the structure, whereas corbels are solid pieces of material within the wall.

Technically, consoles are called an “S-shaped scroll bracket” in the classical tradition.

Keystones also often come in the form of consoles in architecture.

Unlike the term “corbel”, “console” is widely used outside of architectural meaning. For instance, the word is often used for furniture (as in a console table), and other decorative art forms where the motif appears.

The Origins and History of Corbels

The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels keyed deeply inside a wall support a projecting wall or parapet, have been used since Neolithic (New Stone Age) times. They are particularly common in Medieval architecture and the Scottish baronial style, as well as in the vocabulary of classical architecture.

An example of the latter is the modillions of a Corinthian cornice. Gothic, Chinese, and Hindu architecture have also made particular use of corbels, as have other architectural styles around the world, and many examples of corbels can be seen featuring decorative elements that are typical of these styles, cultures, and belief systems.

image of modelled face for decorative corbel moulding

Decorated Corbels

Within the periods that corbels were popular and commonly used in architecture, designs for decorative elements also varied. For instance, corbels in Norman architecture, which is also called Romanesque architecture, were often plain in appearance but would sometimes be carved with elaborate, decorative, and highly-stylised human or animal heads. Imaginary and mythological beasts might also be included in these designs.

The Early English period, also known as English Gothic, also saw intricately carved decorated corbels utilised in architecture.

Some designs of decorated corbels in this period would end with a point seemingly growing into the wall, or forming a knot. These are often supported by angels or other figures, as is most suitable for the overall architectural design.

When used in English half-timber work, wooden corbels (which were also known as “tassels” or baggers”) could be found in abundance. These wood features would be used to carry windowsills or oriel windows in wood, which might also be carved with decorative features.

Corbels in Classical Architecture

The corbels that are of most note in classical architecture are those that would carry balconies in France and Italy. These could be large and were often richly carved, and some of the finest examples of the Italian Cinquecento (the Italian Renaissance of the 16th century) are found in these designs.

It was these designs that inspired the Paris-trained designers of 19th-century Beaux-Arts architecture. By viewing these features, the designers were said to have been encouraged to show imagination in varying their corbel designs.

Corbels in Later Periods

Later periods than the Medieval would make use of designs, patterns, and styles that were common and popular in that era in history. On many occasions, these would be elements and ornaments associated with the capitals of columns.

Examples of this are the fluted designs of the Georgian era, the carved foliage of the Victorian era, the plainer and less ornate designs of the Edwardian era, and the sunbursts and bold geometric patterns that characterise Art Deco.

Corbels in Modern and Contemporary Architecture

In the modern era, home and property owners are offered a greater amount of freedom and the opportunity to decide on materials and decorative elements for corbels built or installed in their properties. This may, however, be dependent on the age of the property, its particular architectural style, and whether they are carrying out a restoration project or finishing a new build with a contemporary interior but wish to add classically-designed decorative elements.

An example of this would be the difference between choosing intricately carved Georgian or Victorian corbels in stone to repair and restore the exterior of a property from that era, and deciding on plaster Edwardian or Art Deco designs to offer flourish to a new interior.

plaster corbels

Designing and Installing Corbels at Artisan Plastercraft

We are glad to be able to aid our customers with the design, creation, and application of plaster corbels at Artisan Plastercraft. This work comes from many years of experience in bringing design requests in a myriad of styles and patterns to life – both those specifically requested by our customers and those they have seen on our website and decided to choose.

The design and crafting process may be achieved by using computer-aided design (CAD) technology, which allows for a flawless creation process. It also allows us to show property owners the design of mouldings before any further work is carried out.


For a Quote on Fine Plaster Corbel Designs

If you have been searching for a reliable, experienced firm to provide you with exquisitely-finished plaster corbel designs, whether ready-prepared or bespoke, contact our offices today.

We are more than confident that we can provide any architectural or interior design project with the pieces necessary to complete the restoration of older decorative features or to offer newer builds a classic charm that assists in wholly completing its aesthetic appeal and potential.

Our staff are fully-prepared to discuss your needs and specifications with you as soon as you have contacted us. They will also be able to offer you a quote on the work that you require as soon as they know what you would like at the close of your project.

Alternatively, consider exploring our portfolio of projects to gain inspiration before you begin.

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We understand that choosing the right company for your project is important for project success, budget efficiency and your reputation.  We manufacture and install superior custom plaster mouldings, we re-create period plaster features as well as offering traditional lime plastering & lath and plaster.