A versatile and beautiful architectural element, the corbel is a triangular shaped support that’s been used in homes and other buildings for many centuries. You can find them easily at flea markets, antiques malls and online. In the meantime, take a look at some of our favorite ways to use corbels in she sheds and homes.
Decorative Details Matter
Up until the mid century, mundane structural elements nevertheless had a lot of style. Next time you walk into a 19th- or early-20th century restored home, take notice of the crystal doorknobs, etched brass door plates and fancy heater vents. Nothing was too humble to be pretty.
Corbels were no exception. Despite their utilitarian use for supporting weight in homes, churches and businesses for many centuries, corbels were also elaborately carved and decorated. Typically they were embedded into a wall so that the part jutting out is strong enough to bear weight. (Today, however, corbels are often purely decorative and are simply glued or hung on a wall.) Roofs, shelves, windowsills, fireplace mantels, kitchen vent hoods are all typical places corbels come in handy. They are even used as extra frame support in an opening cut out between rooms. They are similar to brackets, especially those used to support eaves. Wood corbels are usually routed and carved, featuring sensuous curves and depictions of fruit, acanthus leaves and flourishes.
Pretty Porch Overhang
Nothing dresses up a she shed facade more than a door or window “awning” — even if it’s purely decorative. Use interesting corbels and sturdy wood planks to create this fun outdoor shelf for plants and seasonal decor. Here is another example using decorative metal brackets (close cousin to the corbel) on the face of Tracey Hiebert’s “thriftily fab” she shed.
Easy and Decorative Shelf
One of the most popular ways to use corbels is underneath display shelves. Shelves are one of the key elements in a she shed as far as storage and adding a pretty touch to the interior. Keep the original patina on antique corbels or use new ones and paint everything in the color of your choice.
If you don’t want the formality of a traditional window treatment but want to dress up your prominent windows, consider something like this pretty arrangement of corbels on each side. In this case, the window “valance” is created with a vintage louvered shutter. Kim Brandstater of Lavender Marketplace Workshops dressed up her new ceramics studio (built and designed by She Shed Living) with lots of corbels and vintage architectural elements. You can also use a pretty wood plank or a metal rod if you want to hang some simple curtain panels.
Another way to use a corbel or two is for a simple plant display. Simply attach the corbel to the wall and place your favorite objet d’art or a potted plant on it. This small-scale shelf is a great way to dress up a cramped space or create definition in one corner of a room.
Here is a wonderful way to enhance a transition between two rooms. It also works really well on a she shed porch as an elegant framework. Kim DeCamp Robinson of the popular garden and home decor site Shiplap and Shells came up with this idea for the archway between her living room and kitchen. “There was a wall between the two rooms when we moved in nine years ago,” she explains. Kim went even further, installing a turned post that fit onto the top of the kitchen’s banquette bench on the right, and down to the floor on the left.
This corbel project is not a slam-dunk in a day; it requires some construction elbow grease. The design and installation took Kim and her husband a few weeks to complete and the paint-and-stain finish took a few weeks longer. But it can be done as a DIY if you have the inspiration and patience! The results as you can see are well worth it.
There are so many ways to use corbels and they really make an impact in the design of a she shed or a room. Our favorite sources for corbels include Facebook Marketplace, craigslist and local salvage shops. Do you have some creative ideas for using corbels? Please share in the comments below!