Lynda and Davis Camalier were looking for a house big enough for their growing family when they came across this stone dwelling in the Woodland Normanstone neighborhood of Northwest Washington. Although the house needed updating and expanding, the Camaliers fell in love with the room sizes, the double-story foyer and the southern exposure. They went to the Tombs restaurant and on the back of a napkin drew up their plans for the house.

“Davis and I, we love to redo houses,” Lynda said. “That’s a passion we both have. We saw potential right away and kind of figured it out very quickly.”

It helps that Lynda is an interior designer and Davis is a real estate developer. The 1935 house was designed by architect J.J. Whelan for Francis Walker, chief economist at the Federal Trade Commission.

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Distinguished homes for sale in the D.C. region

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Northwest Washington house | The stone house in in the Woodland Normanstone neighborhood of Northwest Washington is deceptively modest from the street. The 8,400-square-foot home is listed at $5.5 million. (Sean Shanahan)

Before the Camaliers owned it, the house was home to members of the diplomatic corps. Walker sold the house in 1951 to Hungary, which used it as the ambassador’s residence. Robert Douglas Coe, a Foreign Service officer, bought the house from the Hungarians but lived there only a short time. After Coe was appointed ambassador to Denmark, he leased the house to the Uruguayan ambassador.

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Calvin Hawley Oakes, a Foreign Service officer and senior executive at the Central Intelligence Agency, purchased the house in 1956. The house remained in the Oakes family until the Camaliers bought it in 1993.

The couple, who raised four children in the house, expanded it by adding a conservatory, breakfast nook and family room on the main level. They turned the garage into a mud room and second laundry room and transformed the backyard into a serene sanctuary.

Lynda says Davis was the mastermind behind the backyard renovation. What once had a big tree in the middle, a profusion of azaleas and a chain-link fence now has a swimming pool, terraces and ivy-covered walls.

Although they grew the house, the Camaliers kept it cozy and comfortable. The rooms can accommodate large crowds — they once hosted 175 people — but don’t feel cavernous.

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“It’s been a great, great house for entertaining,” Lynda said. “It’s been very warm and fuzzy with just the six of us.”

Lynda’s favorite room is the conservatory, which takes full advantage of the southern exposure with glass doors that open to the backyard and three skylights. The room is as enjoyable in the winter as it is in the summer.

“When it snowed, [the skylights] were just as great, with snow coming down,” she said. “Having snow covered skylights was really very fun.”

The house is deceptively modest from the street. Lynda recalls meeting a new neighbor who asked where she lived. When Lynda told her she lived in the stone house with the semicircular driveway, the woman said, “Oh, the cottage.” Little did she know that the “cottage” is 8,400 square feet.

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“We made it work for our family, and we love the location,” Lynda said. “For us, it really felt like being in an oasis somewhere out in some country area. We never felt like we were in the city.”

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The six-bedroom, nine-bathroom house is listed at just under $5.5 million.

Listing agent: Melanie Hayes, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty

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