NEW IBERIA, La. (AL) – Many homes in Acadiana share a rustic, Cajun architecture dating back to when the area was first settled, and while the aesthetic of these homes are often preserved for their historical significance they can be difficult to actually live in with the various amenities offered in the 21st century, particularly their bathrooms.

And since adapting a bathroom to personal needs and wants can be an ordeal for many a homeowner, both young and old, Acadiana we sought practical methods to update the lavatories of such antique dwellings, as well as any modern ones, without ordering a complete renovation or overhaul of the bathroom itself.

The most common area of a residential bathroom to receive the most attention is the bath area itself – whether that may be a traditional bathtub or shower stall.

“One of the things that we do a lot of is bathroom renovations; it’s a huge piece of our business,” says Mike Andrus, a tiling expert who owns Ronnie’s Flooring Center in New Iberia.
Andrus says his initial advice to anyone looking to redo their bathroom is to ask themselves a simple question: What do you really need?

According to Andrus, there are typically two primary issues behind someone wanting to redesign a bathroom. The first is homeowners looking to update or restyle the look of the room itself in order to add value to their property. The other is to make a bathroom more accessible to the elderly or disabled and remove any barriers that might impede them from comfortably using the space.

“What is their end goal?” asks Andrus. “If it’s to overcome a barrier, then let’s concentrate on that issue. If it’s that they just want to update that bathroom from 1940 and make it look like a 2018 bathroom then that’s a totally different issue.”

For example, what if a newlywed couple just bought an old Cajun-style house and wanted to update their claw foot bathtub with a shower without completely destroying the entire aesthetic of the bathroom?

Andrus says it could just be just a matter of replacing the original bathtub with a new one and doing a simple tile tub surround, or they could basically tile the walls for a shower around the tub.

There are also some small ways to change the feel of a bath space.

“Sometimes we have gone into these tub, fiberglass shower enclosures and usually those things are fairly short,” says Andrus. “We will go in and usually just put tile around the perimeter of that fiberglass and it adds some color and some decorations and it just gives you that little pump in the room as well as help protect the sheetrock walls around the edges of that fiberglass.”
Andrus also recommends replacing the countertop on the vanity with an updated material like granite or something as simple as laminate, aka Formica.

“Even the Formicas today, those laminate-type finishes, have come a long way and just to replace that is not veryl expensive and that can really change the look of a countertop,” he says.

The fixtures are another item that can be replaced without completely upending your bathroom.

Older faucets have a tendency to amass calcium buildup on them, and it’s a good idea to change them to match any updates made to the shower. However, replacing them doesn’t have to cost you to go over budget.

“My encouragement for anybody with something like that is always remember that cheaper is not always better, but you don’t always have to go buy the most expensive faucet to get that upgrade,” says Andrus. “I would say shop around and look, get some ideas, look online and go to some of these stores like Coburn’s who have things that you can put in your hand and shop it and look at it.”

A bathroom’s lighting can also play a major part in how it’s used and presented. Many homeowners prefer an overhead light, a light over the mirror and maybe some wall sconces or recess can lights. However, it’s important to properly light a bathroom and a small change could be to simply upgrade the types of bulbs used to LEDs.

There’s also the option of whether or not to add tile to certain parts of the bath area, which is something Andrus specializes in.

“If it’s just that you want to add an accent it could be a backsplash for your vanity with some sort of decorative tile – a little mosaic tile around an existing tub, or something like that to accent it up,” says Andrus.

The colors of the bathroom can also make a big change without making a huge impact. But ultimately what paint product to use is determined by the layout of the individual bathroom and each homeowner’s preference.

“Depending on the bathroom itself – if it’s a big shower with a lot of steam  – that all kind of plays a factor into the product,” says Brent Romero, managing partner of Bayou Paints. “It’s just what products they want to pick, what color they’re trying to accomplish. We just kind of try to lead them in the right direction on what to do and when to do it. And let them pick colors and sheens and then product in the end.”

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s so many things that you can do,” says Andrus. “It could just be that you go in and replace that pink toilet and lavatory with something that’s more up to date, and get rid of those old, 1970s colors.”

One last thing to remember when dealing with bathroom redesign is that the bathroom doesn’t take up a whole lot of square footage in relation with other rooms in a house, so it may not be as expensive as you think because it is a smaller area.

“If I had to give a price to go change the ceramic tile in a kitchen versus a bathroom, the bathroom is going to be considerably cheaper because the footprint in there is considerably small,” says Andrus.

[This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Acadiana Lifestyle.]