Owning a historic home is a source of pride and brings with it many rewards as well as a few challenges, but being surrounded by antique construction doesn’t mean you have to give up on having a modern, hightech home. While smart-home technology might seem incompatible with many of the centuries- old buildings in Charleston, one company has developed a reputation as the go-to expert for integrating technology into historic sites. Accucom’s work in old Charleston homes proves that high tech and history can go hand in hand.
With more than 35 years between them in the technology industry, Accucom’s owners Chris Holsomback, Esther Courtney and Bill Whitley decided they wanted to have a more direct relationship with their customers and expand their field of expertise. Today, the company provides custom audio/video systems, home automation and security systems, all with an eye toward preserving a home’s history.
Courtney, the company’s chief financial officer, says that owners of historic properties want to add technology to the homes “in a very discrete way, so as not to destroy the historic value.” Televisions that rise from inside furniture or that pose as mirrors when not in use are popular ways to preserve the ambience of a centuries-old room.
Smart-home technology sales could more than double to $39 billion by 2019, fueled mainly by security and home control products, according to Strategy Analytics, a leading research and consulting firm. Riding this wave, Accucom has built a reputation for quality, working with some of the most respected brands in both high-tech equipment and construction.
“Our firm specializes in the restoration and rehabilitation of some of the most significant 18th- and 19th-century architecture in the country,” says Richard Marks whose company, Richard Marks Restorations, Inc., specializes in historic preservation and renovation. “Our clients expect the best, whether it be authentic woodwork or a worldclass audio/visual/life safety system that blends discreetly with the house and décor. We count on Accucom to deliver, and they do.”
Most of Accucom’s customers today live in the posh “South of Broad” neighborhood in downtown Charleston, but their customer base is rapidly expanding to other areas such as Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Despite the deeper pockets of some of these customers, Courtney and Whitley insist that no job is too small.
Whitley, Accucom’s chief operating officer, remarks that some of his customers might spend $12,000 to $80,000 outfitting their home with smart technology and high-end sound systems. “But,” he says, ”we can do something as simple as wall mounting a TV for someone, if that’s what they need. We are committed to taking care of each and every individual who calls, no matter what size the job is.”
Whitley emphasizes that sound system installation is extremely popular in the Charleston area. While it’s clear that Charlestonians love their music, speakers need to be nearly invisible—strategically “hidden” throughout the house—to preserve the historic look of a home.
Accucom installs only the best of the best when it comes to modern sound systems. The company is one of the area’s top dealers for Sonos, a highend audio distribution system that synchronizes a customer’s entire digital music library into one app so that any song can be played in any room, all controlled by a smartphone or tablet. One person might be listening to classical music in the bedroom, for example, while her spouse is rocking out to hiphop in the kitchen. Customers agree that the combination of Sonos’ system and Accucom’s technical expertise make for a great sound experience.
“For as long as I remember, ” says Charleston homeowner David Wertz, “the first thing I did when moving into a new home was to unpack the stereo, which followed the last thing I did at my previous residence: pack up the stereo. So when our family moved to Charleston and proceeded to renovate a historical home, I found Accucom.” From pre-construction planning to post-installation tweaking, Accucom installed all of the family’s systems, including music, video, telephone and security.
Many old homes are made from materials that make it difficult to install advanced systems; however, in the expert hands of Accucom’s team, historic homes can become smart homes despite layers of construction.
“Houses in downtown Charleston can be very difficult to cover fully in Wi-Fi,” says Whitley. “The 12-inch-thick brick walls underneath mesh wire and plaster make it nearly impossible for a wireless signal to get through. We solve the problem by installing outdoor wireless access points in multiple locations throughout the house.”
While Wi-Fi and sound systems are top sellers, Accucom says security technology is also very popular among area homeowners. The Siedle video intercom security system is frequently requested, for example, as is Lutron lighting control for remotely dimming lights, controlling window shades and conserving energy. Today’s systems can be controlled from anywhere via tablets or smartphones. Lights can even be programmed to turn on and off randomly when you’re not home, simulating someone walking through the house.
Whitley says whatever the customer’s system needs are, ease of use is critical. “Simplicity is what we aim for,” says Whitley. “We call it ‘one-button entertainment.’” In a recently completed home renovation, Accucom installed a complete Wi-Fi network, a 65-inch television with iPad control and an outdoor sound system around the home’s hot tub and lap pool. The owners now have easy access to music, entertainment and utility control from anywhere they choose to relax.
No matter the job, Accucom prides itself on its commitment to customer service. “We try to make every person who calls feel like they are the President calling us,” Courtney says.
Kira Perdue is a public relations professional and freelance writer based in Mount Pleasant.