Designers We Love: Michou Osterwald

WORDS Debbie Loots IMAGES Shavan Rahim

Coveting her gilded wooden bowls, we visited Michou Osterwald in her studio.

Michou, co-owner of Osterwald & Sons Cabinetmakers, which has been in the business of crafting exceptional wooden furniture since 1984, learnt the art of water gilding from a master. It’s a process that requires patience and precision, as the finished product has to emulate the precious metal exactly. Michou embellishes bowls, frames, lamps and details on furniture with 23,75 karat gold leaf, genuine silver leaf or green golds made up of alloys.

Tell us about the history of gilding.

It is an ancient craft invented by the Egyptians to beautify gifts. Over time they also started to gild valuable objects and sacred spaces.

What drew you to gilding?

I’ve always loved doing paint finishes. I became interested in embellishing a humble object like a wooden bowl with something as grand as gold.

How long did the learning process take?

The gilder’s apprenticeship is three years, but it took me longer. A friend of mine in Hamburg who’s a gilding master taught me long distance.

What materials do you use?

A gilder’s cushion, polishing brushes and specialised tools – I look after them like gold!

And future plans?

I hope to develop my range. You never know what you might come across… maybe an old doorframe. I wouldn’t mind doing that!

The bowls are also available at Ebony in Franschhoek and Equus Boutique on Cavalli Estate near Somerset West. Visit or for more.