Bradstone 2018 Brochure
Not that many years ago, I was involved in an extended discussion with some marketing bods working for one of the nation’s biggest hard-landscaping suppliers about the future, or otherwise, of the traditional hard-copy paving brochure. At that time, there was a convinced, and convincing, body of opinion that the end was nigh, that it was only a matter of time before the expensive, glossy, picture-crammed annual brochure was finally supplanted by a computer-friendly PDF, which itself was merely an adjunct to a comprehensive website and a Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Fecknowswhat presence.
Now, as I’m struggling to lift what is possibly the weightiest tome ever published as a patio and driveway brochure, I wonder what ever happened to those bright young things who saw a future comprised solely of e-this and i-that. I haven’t seen them around the industry for a while!
Bradstone certainly seem to think the old-e-world-e catalogue-e of yore has legs, because they’ve just launched one hundred and eighty-bloody-eight pages of paving, walling, aggregates and other hard-landscaping loveliness as their 2018 brochure.
There’s a new masterplan behind this latest edition. For 2018 they’ve gone for a more magazine-y, informal, coffee table styling, a brochure with status and presence, a brochure that the aspiring new patio owner can leave nonchalantly but unmissably positioned on the Modern French Country style accent table in the orangery.
Along with the new magazine approach, there’s a bit of a reorganisation of the product groups. Gone are the intangible Contemporary and Traditional collections to be replaced by the much more clearly defined groups of Porcelain, Concrete, Natural Stone, Block Paving and Landscaping Features. Oh! That feels better already! No more sleepless nights worrying about whether Panache was Traditional or Contemporary!
It’s a categorisation problem that many of the bigger suppliers have wrestled with over the years, especially in the days when they used to go to ridiculous lengths to avoid the word concrete (though some still do!), and it’s all so unnecessary. Given the state of the market in 2018, I do feel that this grouping from Bradstone is about as good as we are going to get. In the words of those awful Telly Ads, it does what it says….and we all know where we are.
So, we have the obligatory introduction pages dubbed "Inspiration" featuring plenty of pretty pictures of settings that most of us could only dream about (or have nightmares about, if like me, you have a deep-seated abhorrence of pizza ovens in British back gardens), but putting aside my petty prejudices, it’s all well-intentioned.
As perhaps we should expect, given the current appetites of the market (particularly in Lower Britain), the opening act is Porcelain . Thankfully, as far as I can tell, they’ve not added anymore fanciful Latin-sounding product sub-groups, although Mode has been sub-divided in Mode Profiled and Mode Textured – yeah! Me neither!!!....oh, and the boring Andano one has been sent packing.
Porcelain is porcelain and it does seem that it has a Marmite effect with many people. For every person that loves the clean, clinical regularity and reliability, there’s another that despises the faux naturalism and incessant predictability, but, as long as it’s selling, businesses such as Bradstone have a duty to ensure they present us with a curated and catholic selection of all that is best in the ceramic world of 2018. I think we can rest assured on that score!
Flicking through the image-heavy pages, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of new. Pauta has two new sizes, they say on page 33, but tease us by not revealing until page 169 that the new size is 900x450mm, a size that isn’t easy to work in with the existing 600x600mm squares, unless it’s alternating courses of differing widths.
When I met with the Bradstonite cultural delegation, I recall them enthusing about porcelain step units and/or copings and/or edgings, but alas: no sign of them in this section. That’s because, for reasons which escape me completely, they’ve been hived off to a separate Steps section (Page 156) along with natural stone steps. Now, I’m not denying the logic of putting all the steps together in one job lot, but surely such wonderful additions to the range deserve something more than the all-too-easy-to-miss micro-mention on the Mode Porcelain pages? At least they go a mention, which is more than can be said for the Mode Copings, ignominiously banished to Page 142, or the Mode Edgings languishing on their lonesome on Page 149.
Steps, and Copings and Edgings might not seem the most exciting of products but these mark a significant step (no pun intended) in the evolution of Porcelain as a paving material, and as such, they should be featured more prominently, or at least flagged up (again, no pun intended), in the main Porcelain section to show how designs can be extended and developed by incorporating complementary ancillary fittings. Assigning them to the nowhere-land of Landscaping Accessories on Page hundred-and-summat does them no favours.
On we go to Bradstone’s original tour-de-force, Concrete Paving, now unashamedly labelled as such, and to hell with the silly euphemisms of ‘reconstituted stone’ or ‘council conglomerate’. For too long, I’ve been one of the few voices sticking up for concrete: it’s a fine material, ideally suited to paving and hard-landscaping, and it does things that can’t be done in any other material. Don’t be ashamed of concrete – our entire industry is built on it, literally!
So many familiar names here, names that have adorned our patios and gardens for years, if not decades, names like Old Town ®, StoneMaster ®, Panache and Carpet Stones. But what about new stuff?
Well, there’s the intriguingly named Mahina , which turns out to be a shot-textured flag, in two colours (Light Grey and Dark Grey) and two sizes, 600x600mm and 450x450mm, which the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice are both squares, so pretty limited design-wise.
Wait a minute! Don’t Bradstone already have a shot-textured flag? Isn’t Panaches shot-textured? And what about Textured, isn’t that….err….shot-textured? Yes: they are, but the subtle difference, and it is an incredibly subtle difference, is that Mahina (where do they get these names?) contains what they describe as " a contemporary fleck to replicate granite. "
Mmmm. That vaunted fleck is definitely present, but I’m not convinced it " replicates granite. " What I do notice from the samples provided is that the texturing seems quite aggressive at the arrisses, textured to the point of being blown away, almost. Is this a feature of the flags or is it just these sample pieces?
I mentioned the potential conflict with the respected Panache flagstone, but that range has been severely trimmed and now consists only of the ground option, the shot-textured option obviously been replaced by Mahina, but why? And why the name change? It’s so similar to Panache, they could easily have got away with Panache Fleck or Panache Granito. Why introduce a whole new, unknown brand with no heritage? Maybe my failure to understand is why I’m an impoverished ex-flagger and not a stinking-rich marketing guru.
What else is new? There’s a new shade of Old Town ® which has been dubbed "Old Quarried" and, as far as I can tell from brochure and 150x150mm sample, is mucky brown, darker than Grey-Green and reasonably reminiscent of weathered flagstones from the north Pennines, where the blues, tans and buffs have petered out. Old Town always sells well, even in these days of minimal demand for wet-cast, and there’s no reason to think this new shade won’t share in the success of its siblings. In fact, I think it may well become the most popular of the lot (in the north – those darn sarff will still prefer the softer Cotswold and Limestone colours).
Onwards and upwards into the exalted territories of Natural Stone , and, it appears, nothing shocking or unexpected here. Some of the underperformers have been calmly retired (glad to see the River-Washed Limestone didn’t fall victim to the cull – I really like that one!) and the focus for 2018 is very much on the smooth and the grand. Big statement pieces of stone that ooze luxury but need careful installation, and clever design, to ensure they’re shown off to their best. The Rainbow is still a god-awful stone, and the fact that people actually hand over good money for this bloody algae-magnet proves that there’s really is nowt so queer as folk, but hey! If people want to splurge their spondoolicks on this over-priced skip-filler, then Bradstone might as well take their dosh and put it somewhere safe.
The grandly titled Grand Natural Sandstone has a new size, it says here, but doing a quick compare and contrast with 2017’s edition, it seems that the new size is actually a patio pack based on a 150mm module which, of course, is not compatible with the 250mm modular size of the individual pieces. Eh? Same stone; same colour; not compatible; what’s that about then? Marketing, Tony. Marketing!
One notable near-absence from all the photographs, and barely present in the later Technical Information, is Setts. They still do them, in granite or sandstone, but you'd easily miss them in this brochure. Surely there's a decent photie or two of a sett paved job somewhere in the Bradstone files? Something better than the single uninspiring image used on the granite page? I know they don't sell in hiuge quantities, but that's no reason to hide them away so effectively.
Earlier I mentioned that wet-cast paving was a difficult sell nowadays, and while Concrete Block Paving isn’t suffering quite as badly, it’s been in the doldrums for about a decade, with next-to-buggerall of any interest popping out of a ridiculously expensive steel mould for years. It isn’t that CBPs are not a superb paving material (they are still the best value-for-money driveway option on the market as far as I’m concerned) but that so many upstart options such as resin bound and pattern imprinted concrete have been taking more and more market share, often unwisely, and CBPs have languished, often unfairly thought of as a 1990s throwback.
So, with a struggling market, it’s not easy to introduce innovation, and so it is with the Bradstone Block Paving offer for 2018. Novelty is limited to a couple of new shades for the Monksbridge range, a paver that is rightly but inexplicably popular in the North-east of England. Woodland is a light-hued brown multi, and Grey-Green is, to my eye at least, much heavier on the Grey than the Green. Perhaps I need to see a larger expanse of it laid, but the samples I have are definitely lacking in the Green department.
The final category of Landscape Features gathers together all those bits and pieces that, more often than not, add the finishing touches to a project and can make the difference between a good job and a great job.
So, the walling, which for 2018 includes an improved Natural Stone Walling Slip range, and, as trailed previously, some very nice steps in both Porcelain (Mode only) and Natural Stone, which were both long overdue. The matching copings and edgings are also very welcome but, on a personal note, the most exciting news is that the stupendously twee wet-cast flags with bird moulded onto them are gone. The imitation farthings and wildlife inspired bingo prizes are no more. Brilliant!
As with so many other suppliers, Bradstone have put together a range of fixing and jointing products. The BradPoint jointing jollop is a one-part resin mortar, so like all the other one-part resin mortars currently flooding the market, is basically a waste of time and money. Do yourself a favour and invest in a quality two-part resin mortar.
Almost finished and it’s the obligatory plug for the Bradstone design services and the rapidly improving Bradstone Assured Contractors, many of whom contributed some of the most stunning images used in this brochure, which is a great credit to the Assured Contractors as a whole and the products they use.
And then finally, all the technical info. The sizes, pack quantities, patio pack options, and all the essential boring detail which has been stripped out of the main pages, primarily to avoid it spoiling the incredible imagery, and dumped here, at the back. By and large, that is not a bad thing. When size or pack info is required, every product has a clear pointer to the page which holds that info, but every now and again, such as when a new size is proclaimed, it would be useful to see there and then just what that new size actually is.
Considering the brochure as a whole, my initial impression when it was placed into my eager, grubby mitts was mild disappointment: Oh! They’ve abandoned the landscape format and gone back to portrait, but – and I wouldn’t have believed it at first – in just a few turns of the pages, any hankering for last year’s landscape format is forgotten, and that, without any doubt whatsoever, is due to the jaw-droppingly stunning photography.
I appreciate the decision to go for a magazine/coffee table styling sort of demands a portrait format, but it would have been so easy to revert to type and lose all the advantages that come with the wider layout, but they’ve managed to avoid that and created a compelling and visually stimulating treasure.
I could praise the long overdue simplification of product groups, or the discrete use of finely judged text, or even the use of easily-understandable symbols to give at-a-glance info on pricing or origin, but what makes this a absolute doozey of a brochure is the photography, and the projects that are shown. It is simply glorious. It is, indeed, a coffee table book of the very best in hard landscaping materials, design and installation.
Yes, there’s a funny smell from the inks, but you can’t replicate great images without using quality smelly inks, and I’m sure that questionable aroma will disappear in next to no time as I return to this gem of a brochure again and again and again over the next few weeks to revel in its glory and bask in the reflected glory of fantastic paving projects.
The attempt at a catchy mission statement on the fronnt cover - You've got it in BradstONE - You've got it in (Bradst) ONE - geddit??? - is probably too subtle for most of us. It's a good idea, I can see the appeal, but it just doesn't grab you straight away, as a good mission statement should. Still, we've seen far worse over the years: amyone using " Paving The Way " needs shooting with pellets of squirrel dung until their eyes bleed!
It goes without saying that any serious paving installer will get themselves a copy of this 2018 brochure (even though there is a much handier “Trade Directory” which gives the essential info without all the full-page photies) and any potential customers out there, considering a new patio or driveway for 2018 are missing a treat of inspiration if they don’t get themselves a copy, but I would urge anyone else, everyone else, anyone with even a passing interest in great hard-landscaping, get a copy this weekend and you will not be disappointed. But be warned: the sheer wealth of ideas and inspiration could well persuade you to invest in a patio or driveway upgrade for which you really hadn’t planned!
Bradstone's Customer Helpline: 01335 372 289
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