Add Old World Style with Corbels and Brackets

The Old House Web

by Allison E. Beatty
Old House Web Columnist

Glance around many old houses and you'll see distinctive corbels or brackets. These stone or wooden architectural elements have long provided support and ornamentation to graceful front porches, expansive library shelves, and nooks and crannies around the house.

While these detailed carvings serve a functional role, they are perhaps most prized for their ability to add style. Corbels and brackets can help you add some traditional panache to a new house. The key is to evaluate your floor plan and elevations, and select a few areas where you want the greatest impact--to create distinction without overdoing it.

You could highlight a wide front porch by adding corbels that support the roof. Or consider adding ornate corbels or brackets under wall shelves for a chic look in your kitchen. The hand-carved supports combine smartly with the detailing in today's furniture-styled kitchen cabinets.

The Grand Entrance

One of the most visible locations on a house is often the front porch or stoop. If your housing design includes a front porch, why not enhance it with made-to-order corbels? These decorative elements can replace some traditional support lumber and add extra flair.

Wood and Stone and More

Corbels and brackets come in a wide variety of materials, from wood and stone to man-made materials such as resin. The type of material you select will vary based on your budget and the design you are trying to create.

Many homeowners prefer the rich traditional look of wood like that found in older homes. Corbels and brackets can be fashioned from a wide variety of woods, from alder and cherry to mahogany and pine. The wood can be stained clear to emphasize the natural grain or darkened with a rich mahogany or other color to blend with other woodwork in the home.

Wood blends well with traditional homes or those with a rustic style. In a family room with exposed wooden ceiling beams, for example, consider adding wooden corbels to support the fireplace mantel. You can select the same wood used on the ceiling beams or one with a contrasting grain pattern or stain to create some contrast.

All in the Details

Corbels and brackets may be highly detailed in a variety of motifs, for example the long lines and rounded sections of a grapevine, or the multiple curves of a floral design or rosette. To view a wide selection of styles, check out this site's suppliers' guide section and search the Internet. You'll find there are more choices than our ancestors ever imagined possible.

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