In modern usage, a corbel is a carved decorative element that adds a touch of ornate craftsmanship to a project. However, originally, corbels were developed as load-bearing elements used in classical architecture. They were used to support heavy architectural pieces such as roofs or ledges. The strength of a corbel comes from its ability to leverage weight, with its top end presenting a right-angle platform that is supported by the vertical support of its long body. Even today, corbels can still be used as functional weight bearers for cabinets and countertops, giving the installation a classic and regal appeal. Most corbels are made of wood or resin and are added after construction but before painting.
In ancient architecture, stone corbels were used to support balconies and ledges. It is important to note that corbels were always made of masonry and should not be confused with wooden elements of a similar purpose, which are known as “braggers”. By adding corbels to an existing installation, much like adding moldings, the look of standard cabinetry can be completely transformed or revitalized.