When Rich and Ann Rinaldi moved in across the street from longtime Hilton Head residents David and Sally Warren, neither couple could have guessed that they'd soon combine their talents to launch a line of custom artisan tables designed to capture the unique spirit of the Lowcountry.
“The Lowcountry is special in that it is incredibly picturesque and has incredible artists that really capture the beauty of the islands,” David Warren said. “These tables bring art and function together to create porch art – art for your porch.”
It all started when the Warrens took the Rinaldis to their first oyster roast, where the couple was introduced to one of the Lowcountry's signature fixtures: the oyster table. Approximately 40 inches high and featuring a hole for a trashcan to catch discarded oyster shells, oyster tables are an integral part of the Lowcountry's laid-back lifestyle.
The Rinaldis bought an oyster table for their porch and the Warrens couldn't help but admire it, leading Rich Rinaldi to offer to use his woodworking talents to build them a custom oyster table of their own. When it came time to choose a color for the table, the Warrens decided to loop in their friend, celebrated Lowcountry artist Kelly Graham, and Sea Island Porch Art was born.
“We decided to have Kelly paint his signature crab on the table and when it was finished, it looked electric and everyone really loved it,” David Warren said. “We've sold several of them since then.”
The Sea Island Porch Art collaboration offers custom oyster and coffee tables handcrafted by Rich Rinaldi, embellished by Graham and marketed by the Warrens.
“Each table is custom made, so none of the variables are set,” David Warren said. “The tables are made to the height and size that the customer wants, and the neat thing about them is that each table is an original work of art — and the art is spectacular. Kelly is a wonderful artist and he's got the talent to be able to do anything that the client would want — anything from flowers to crabs, oysters, shrimp and other crustaceans, anything that's part of the Lowcountry theme and gives the tables a Lowcountry feel.”
The high-end tables start at approximately $800, and are made of treated or untreated pine and finished with five coats of semi- or high-gloss polyurethane so that they can be used indoors or out. The tables can serve as functional oyster or coffee tables, or simply decorative accents. Regardless of how they're used, Sea Island Porch Art's gorgeous tables prove to be the center of conversation at any party or get-together.
“They're wonderful conversation pieces because they're art come alive — from off the wall and onto the table,” said Sally Warren.
Her husband agreed. “The tables — particularly the oyster tables — are great because they become a central part of the party or gathering. People either tend to sit on stools or stand by them, and they become the center of conversation,” he said. “We've heard that from everyone who has one of these tables on their porch or in their home. We have one in our house and it's the first thing that people mention.”
Though the collaboration started just a few months ago, Sea Island Porch Art's tables are already extending their reach beyond the Lowcountry. One of the tables was recently sent to Columbia, where a family will use it for their frequent oyster roasts.
So far, most of the orders for the tables have come from the Warrens’ and the Rinaldis’ social circles, or from the Sea Island Porch Art website. However, the Warrens also envision a number of commercial applications.
“I think there's a big commercial application for the tables, for restaurants and things like that,” David Warren said. “We can do tables with the Lowcountry art on them, or businesses could order tables with their logo on them. We could even do bar tables — as I said, none of the variables are set.”
Though still in its infancy, the Sea Island Porch Art endeavor has already exceeded the Warrens' expectations.
“The tables have come out much better than we ever anticipated,” David Warren said. “We thought, ‘We'll paint a crab on a table and it will be a nice table,’ but they really are something that, once you see them, you say, ‘That's incredible.’”