For a 7,200-square-foot property, the Encino house that developer Maxim Cherniavsky bought in 2015 felt cramped and cloistered.
"The first time I saw it, it was 1 p.m. on a sunny day, but we still needed to turn the lights on," Cherniavsky said. "The main entrance was hidden in a forest of trees. It reminded me of a small village house."
Cherniavsky embarked on an overhaul that took a year, plus another six months for the permit process, and cost about $2 million.
By the end, he had disposed of some 40 Dumpster loads of fittings and debris. The result is skylight-filled sleek and modern estate that is 2,000 square feet larger than the original.
His goal: Create a house with "wow factors throughout" that would cost at least $10 million on the Westside. He listed the San Fernando Valley property at just under $7 million; it is currently on the market.
Cherniavsky envisioned the house as a draw for people who like to entertain, so he concentrated his efforts there. Replacing a narrow garage that held barely one car, he created a large circular driveway that can accommodate numerous vehicles.
There are two wine cellars: one for display, one refrigerated. He built a catering entrance and a separate catering kitchen. When the former owner told him the dining room had not been used in five years, Cherniavsky made it a focal point.
"It was just a room without any character," he said. "I wanted it to become an architectural space."
A slab of Italian marble was converted into a dining table, which is beneath a lighting fixture that Cherniavsky swapped out three times.
"We divided the house into two parts: one formal, one for family," he said. "It's so large and linear that I was able to do that."
Cherniavsky also dismantled low ceilings and rebuilt them so they are now 18 to 22 feet high. He laid down strips of reclaimed wood and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on European light fixtures.
The seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom house includes a multipurpose space — also with its own entrance — that can be an artist's studio, home office, library (high bookshelves are accessed by a sliding ladder) or conservatory.
"It's a creative space for which we had to merge two smaller, low-ceilinged rooms," he said. "It required a lot of engineering."
Low ceilings and narrow spaces were an issue throughout the house.
"In the master bedroom, the ceiling in the closet was 5 feet high," he said. "You'd have to hunch over to choose what you wanted to wear."
Brick walls were a dominant feature in the original property, but in the kitchen, said Cherniavsky, they felt "oppressive and tough to look at." He retained some of the brick walls in the living spaces, painting them white to lighten them up.
The acre of flat land allowed for some of the backyard to be turned into an entertainer's haven.
A newly constructed 1,100-square-foot guesthouse looks out onto a refurbished pool — enhanced with a graded waterfall — and new paving stones and landscaping.
The contemporary sensibility of the outdoor space mirrors the way Cherniavsky treated the inside.
"We used a lot of reclaimed wood mixed with metals," he said. "Metal is cold, but mixed with the wood, it becomes warm. The house is huge, but I wanted it to feel cozy."
4546 White Oak Ave. in Encino is priced at $6.995 million through John Aaroe Group.
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