Meet avp Group's founder and director, Jes Culley
Founder and director of successful, multi-faceted avp Group, Jes Culley is driven by an unswerving passion to offer the ultimate in residential and commercial automation. With the client’s vision at the heart of every project, we discover what fires up Jes’s imagination, how he meets complex challenges, and what his plans are for avp Group over the next five years.
What led you into a career in automation?
From a young age, I was always interested in electronics and spent most of my free time taking things apart. After studying Electronic Engineering, I started a car audio company which ran successfully for about 18 years, business tailed off as cars were being fitted with audio, mobile phone kits, etc. as standard. By the early 1990s avp was already installing satellite systems as a small part of the business and I was also interested in branching into Hi-Fi and multi-room audio. I happened to mention this to a customer who was an architect. A few weeks later he turned up with a set of drawings for a big house that was under construction in Provence, the owner wanted to install multi-room audio, satellite and multiple TVs. The architect told me cost was no object and if the client liked me, I would get the job…I did! We completed the project successfully and this led to several more amazing projects, for high profile clients, through the same architect.
During this time, our reputation in the UK was growing and home automation projects started pouring in. We started working with the London Basement Company and have installed over 100 home cinema rooms across London over the past 15 years including everything from screens, high-quality audio, lighting control systems, climate control, automated blinds, and sourcing the very latest in projection technology. As the business has developed, avp moved into the automation of commercial premises and multi-dwelling units.
Describe your earliest commercial achievement
It was probably winning the large-scale project in Provence in the early 90s. avp installed state of the art, automated home and conference solutions at an ancient priory which was being renovated into a luxury villa and conference centre. Successfully completing this project and receiving such positive feedback from the client gave us the confidence to focus on automation as our main business offering.
Could you have predicted how big an industry home automation was going to become?
Yes, it was apparent early on that the benefits of home automation were spreading fast, with many brands developing new and exciting solutions. Customers are more switched on than ever to the possibilities of what home automation can bring in terms of comfort and convenience, but security is also a major concern. At the start of a project, some of our clients know exactly what they want and we are able to enhance their ideas and offer solutions they weren’t even aware of, and others are not so technically minded but know that they want the comfort, convenience, and security that home automation can bring. With technology advancing at such a rapid pace, I think the home automation market will grow even bigger with time.
How does avp Group stand out from other automated home experts?
We work directly with clients, architects, interior designers, and building contractors and every project is bespoke. We stand out from other companies by offering the full range of automation solutions under one roof, from climate control and lighting design to high-end sound and home cinema which means our clients require just one set of plans for the whole project, rather than several plans from various suppliers which can get complicated and expensive. We even have an in-house team of experienced electricians who provide a range of electrical services, whether it’s designing a plan for a new-build or upgrading an existing installation. Electrical wiring forms the basis of any automation project and having this service in-house makes the whole process run smoothly. We are also very proud of the service we offer our clients and with every project, we are in it from the beginning to the very end. So much of our business comes by recommendations from our clients so exceeding expectations is always front of mind. Unfortunately, we are also called in to fix projects where another automation company hasn’t completed the work or has incorrectly installed the system and is causing the client great frustration. It’s disappointing when this happens as it reflects badly on the industry as a whole but we’re always delighted to be able to leave the client with a reliable system that does everything they want it to do. We consider it a real privilege to be invited into a client’s home or business to install an automation system, therefore we treat their property with the utmost respect, causing minimal disruption throughout the works.
Is automation as popular with hotels as it is with owners of prime residences?
Automation in hotels is a growing trend, hoteliers want to offer their guests the ultimate luxurious stay. avp has completed several hotel projects; for example, the full automation of a boutique hotel in Switzerland which included installing a cinema in the basement, multi-room audio and TVs. We are currently focused on expanding the commercial side of our business and hope to add many more hotel projects to our portfolio soon.
What’s been your most unusual project to date?
We’ve had the pleasure to work on some weird and wonderful briefs over the years - I love being presented with an exciting challenge! One project that really stands out is Holmewood in Marlow, which is nothing short of an architectural masterpiece. As part of the project, we had to design a bespoke TV elevation lift and position it beneath a stone floor which could be raised and lowered as required so as not to obscure the view of the garden through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. We also installed a custom-built Control 4 automation system on a 78ft barge to integrate multiple TVs, high-quality audio, climate control and lighting, all of which can be controlled using a tablet or smartphone. A motorised satellite dish on the roof automatically tracks and maintains a clear signal when the barge is on the move.
Holmewood in Marlow designed by Apt.
Leander barge, Piper Boats.
Leander barge, Piper Boats.
Are you ever hampered by a client’s desire for the latest trends?
Not at all, we embrace our client’s vision and if they have a fixed idea about what they want then this is what we focus on delivering. With all projects, we make recommendations about how to further enhance our client’s ideas and find that they get very excited about the possibilities! We always share our industry experience with our clients and if they’re set on having an installation that we know won’t deliver the best result, we’ll always suggest an even better solution for them to consider.
How important is the aesthetic element to your client when installing an automation system?
It really depends on the client, but we have some projects with very specific design requirements where the client doesn’t want any unsightly sockets to interrupt the interior design scheme. In this instance, we recommend Focus SB Prism, a clear plate which allows wallpaper or the painted wall to be visible, therefore blending seamlessly with the décor. Focus SB also supplies paintable plates and designs bespoke lighting control panels, both of which have been very popular with our clients.
What challenges do heritage interiors present when it comes to automation?
avp has successfully completed many heritage projects where it’s vital to adhere to strict guidelines to protect these beautiful, often listed, buildings. These types of projects can take much longer as the wiring usually needs to be upgraded and access is often limited. Grade 1 listed buildings can be challenging, especially when we come across an internal oak beam that we’re unable to drill through. We take every precaution to create as little disruption as possible and love the challenge of transforming a heritage property to suit modern day living. We fully automated an old manor house in Hertfordshire and our client wanted every socket to be completely flush with the interior design. We recommended Focus SB Smoothie to seamlessly integrate every socket in the house with the striking décor. The client was delighted with the result.
How do you balance servicing high profile organisations alongside private individuals?
Our approach is to treat all clients the same no matter who they are. We assign one of our experienced project managers to work closely with the client at every stage of the installation. This means that the client has one point of contact and meets on-site with their PM at regular intervals. We’ve found this works well for every type of project we undertake.
You offer in-house services across integrated automation solutions, how do you select the right suppliers, OEM partners, designers and contractors?
Over the last 25 years, we’ve worked with many business partners. You get to know very quickly the good ones and we’ve built a strong network of preferred suppliers who we know we can rely on to help us complete the project to a high standard and specification. We enjoy forging relationships with new partners too, especially those who can offer something unique to our clients.
Has there been a defining moment for the business?
Completing a £600k project for a large KNX smart home installation in a private residence in central London about six years ago. The scale of this project was our largest to date and successfully completing it on time and budget was a fantastic achievement for us as a team.
Where do you see avp Group in five years’ time?
We’re focused on continuing to grow the commercial side of the business, so I’d like to think we’ll be well established in this market in five years’ time.