Bob Kelliher knows a thing or two about teak.
Not only does he own and operate Outside Is In, located in the old Gullah Cuisine building near the Mount Pleasant Towne Center, he travels to Indonesia to guarantee that all the products his store receives are of the highest quality.
The government of Indonesia controls the country’s teak plantations to ensure that the wood is sustainable and that it gets the highest economic return on its prized resource. Kelliher is on the same page. “We prefer that all of our teak is sustainable and harvested properly,” he says. “Being able to visit directly with our manufacturer allows us to make sure our customers are getting the best quality and value possible.”
Teak has been used as furniture for centuries because of its exceptional characteristics. The wood is extremely resistant to rot and termites and has natural properties that give it a long life under any condition. Teak rarely splinters and has the best dimensional stability, allowing joints to stay tight, whereas other woods have a tendency to loosen over time.
For all of these reasons, Kelliher refers to teak as the “king of the woods.”
Kelliher and his associate, Rick Trowman, use the natural advantages of teak to design and build a variety of furniture styles that can suit any client’s private or commercial needs. They work closely with designers here in Charleston, as well as in Indonesia, to create new pieces that are shipped to his store in containers throughout the year.
“We have an unusual value proposition,” Kelliher says. “We are able to offer quality teak at great pricing, often at wholesale to the public. Our knowledge of the wood, our classic designs and our prices—that’s why we’ve been around as long as we have.”
Teak will last decades if you take care of it properly. Here are some tips to get the most out of your outdoor furniture.
• Avoid using “teak oil.” Teak is naturally mold and mildew resistant, but oil can provide nutrients for them to thrive in.
• Clean your furniture every few months.
• Use a solution of dish detergent and water—about 2 ounces to the gallon. Wet the wood thoroughly and, using a sponge, rub gently with the grain. Rinse with clean water.
• Try not to use stain on teak, otherwise you will have to restain it every few years and it will undermine the ease of care for which the wood is so famous. If you take care of your outdoor teak furniture, you’ll see the silver patina begin to show in about three to four months.
While Kelliher settled on the name Outside Is In in January of 2016, the legacy of the business itself has been around for 15 years. Formerly known as The Teak Hut, which originated in McClellanville, South Carolina, the business previously had locations on Coleman Boulevard and Long Point Road. Kelliher became involved with the company five years ago, when he managed the Coleman location. In 2014, The Teak Hut was sold to a new owner but soon went under. Kelliher, with his knowledge and love for teak furniture, wanted to start his own company so he could continue to import teak.
“The Teak Hut has a legacy that I think is very important,” says Kelliher. “Although we are a new, separate company, we like to continue the tradition of being the place in Charleston to buy long-lasting outdoor furniture.”
The large showroom at Outside Is In is filled with rocking chairs and deep-seated club chairs, end tables and dining tables, sofas and garden benches, and even teak-root bowls and sculptures that immediately draw the eye to the natural beauty of the wood. Up close, the new pieces smell faintly of worked leather and are smooth to the touch. There’s a piece for any occasion: a quiet evening on the patio in a love seat or an outdoor spread at a veranda table with friends.
Kelliher and his team only allow the finest grades of teak to enter their showroom. They promise customers that all of their designs will stand up to the elements and provide years of quality comfort.
“The teak we use really is a ‘super wood,’ in that it will last for decades if cared for properly,” he says.
While their own unique designs are a strength for Outside Is In, Kelliher has teamed up with two other teak importers to offer a diverse selection of furniture and décor. Gloster, an international company, is known worldwide for its quality, which Kelliher calls “the high-end of the high-end.” The company has been producing teak furniture for 60 years and gets its wood from the same regions Kelliher does.
For something different, Kelliher is a direct seller of Warehouse 2120, a company that specializes in reclaiming teak from old Indonesian fishing boats and transforming it into furniture and décor. Their products boast a multitude of colors, from dark brown and natural teak coloring to eye-popping blues, greens and reds.
Although teak is Kelliher’s specialty, the name Outside Is In is more in line with the direction he wants to take the company. Not only does it sell outdoor furniture, the company also offers outdoor draping, pillow and cushion fabrics that you can mix and match to create the perfect outdoor setting. Kelliher and his team also offer landscaping and hardscaping services.
“Whereas teak is our legacy and what we want to be known for, we also provide other services and popular materials for outdoor furniture, like synthetic wicker, as well as metal and stone-concrete products,” he says. “This lets us help our customers finish a space exactly how they want it.”
Outside Is In is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday by appointment.
M. Luke Yoder is a freelance writer in Charleston. Find out more at mlukeyoder.com.