Civil servants retire to a globally inspired, uber-sustainable home in Seattle

After decades of work with the U.S. Foreign Service, a couple finds the right spot in Queen Anne, then the right house.

The slatted stairway does lovely things with incoming northern light. “We looked at so many approaches: glass, cable. Wood is a little warmer and more sculptural,” architect Patricia Brennan says. (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

OLIVIER CARDUNER and Pat Ramsey saw the world with the U.S. Foreign Service, living and working in Egypt; Bangladesh; Washington, D.C.; Bolivia; Senegal; Thailand; and India.

Amid all that global adventure, they saw their future during a 1980 visit to Queen Anne’s Kerry Park.

“It was nighttime, and we rounded a curve and saw the Space Needle,” Ramsey says. “My mind was blown. I kept saying, ‘What’s the name of this neighborhood?’ We went back and said, ‘We have to move there someday.’ ”

In the meantime, while they worked toward retirement, the couple had to declare an official “home base.”

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“We wrote Seattle,” Ramsey says.

And so it served, symbolically and motivationally — and, now, literally.

First, though, Carduner and Ramsey visited Seattle a few more times, building familiarity and certainty. “In 2009, we by chance met an agent and saw a few houses,” says Carduner. “We didn’t think we could afford one as civil servants, and especially in retirement.”

The natural textures in the master bathroom, with in-floor heating, a spacious soaking tub and lots of light, “feel comfortable and calm,” homeowner Olivier Carduner says. “The stone in the shower (out of view) builds on the whole connection with nature. The tiles feel a little like water flowing.” (Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

But it was just the right time to buy, and just the right house: a functional but increasingly flimsy 1919 fixer-upper. With two more years of commitments overseas, Carduner and Ramsey formed what began as a mini United Nations of renovations, with architect Patricia Brennan, builder Toth Construction and LEED consultants O’Brien & Company in Seattle; Ramsey in New Delhi; and Carduner in Bangkok.

Even long-distance, even via Skype and email, it became clear that renovations wouldn’t cut it.

“The consultants looked at the foundation, and we couldn’t reuse the existing one,” Brennan says.

“We took it down, and then we dug,” Ramsey says.

This created a gigantic hole, and a world of opportunity.

Carduner and Ramsey are true citizens of the world, and they wanted their new home to reflect that — along with best planetary practices, and maybe even an inspiring message or two.

They now live in a gorgeously green LEED Gold-certified showpiece of sustainability.

“For us, it was a major requirement,” Carduner says. “We saw a bunch of benefits: The cost is absolutely minimal, so it’s a…

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