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Watch out for the mudslides! Friendly warning from designer of Harry and Meghan’s £11m mansion

She named her website The Tig in honour of her favourite Italian Tignanello wine. So Meghan Markle may be delighted to learn the man who built her £11 million Californian mansion paid such close attention to detail that he emptied two bottles of ‘cheap red’ on the wine cellar floor to add an ‘authentic aroma’.

Meghan, whose own delicate sense of smell led to the use of £130 French air diffusers in the ‘musty’ St George’s Chapel on her wedding day, has also inherited a house so technologically advanced that it can ‘sense’ fog rolling in from the Pacific.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday last night, multi-millionaire businessman Terry Cunningham, 61, told how he and his wife Randi bought 5.4 acres of ‘spectacular’ land in exclusive Montecito in 1999, and spent four years building the house of their dreams – a 14,463 sq ft property called The Chateau of Riven Rock.

Mr Cunningham, chief executive of software company Descartes Labs, said the estate was modelled after French houses that the couple so admired.

‘We cycled through the South of France many years ago and fell in love with that style,’ he said. ‘It’s all French Provencal – a beautiful French country house.’

While the Sussexes are no doubt relishing the privacy and grandeur of the home’s sweeping lawns, tiered rose gardens, towering Italian cypress trees, blooming lavender and century-old olive trees, Mr Cunningham warned their peace may be shattered if their good friend Oprah Winfrey decides to throw a party next door – as happened in 2004 when she celebrated her 50th birthday.

‘Oprah’s 50th birthday party was on the next-door neighbour’s property and that was fun because we got to listen to Stevie Wonder play live. That was kind of cool.’

Canadian-born Mr Cunningham fell in love with the hillside location as soon as he saw it. The land was empty after the previous home dating from the 1920s had been demolished.

He designed the ‘palatial’ nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom mansion down to the smallest detail, including a spa, two-bedroom guest house, library, games room, arcade, cinema and private gym. There is also a large pool and tennis court, as well as an outdoor children’s play area.

‘We loved it. We built it. It was our dream home and we built it as a family home and we still love the place. We’re really excited that they found a wonderful home in Montecito,’ he said.

Meghan and Harry bought the property in May through a shell company listed at the LA address of her long-term business manager Andrew Meyer. They moved in six weeks ago.

Mr Cunningham paid such meticulous attention to detail that as well as ‘scenting’ the wine cellar, he used extra-thick plywood to prevent the floorboards from squeaking.

‘I designed the wine cellar. It’s a beautiful room. It’s got gravel on the floor and I emptied a couple of cheap bottles of red on to the gravel so it smelled correctly. I thought that was kind of fun. My brother owns a plywood mill. Most houses don’t have 11-ply wood and that’s why the floors don’t creak. I’m a bit of a fanatic about details like that.’

A neighbour called him last week to tell him about the famous new occupants. ‘He said, ‘Guess who just bought your house?’ and I said, ‘No way!’ It’s a beautiful spot. It looks out on to the ocean. The mountains are behind you and the ocean’s in front of you. It’s a spectacular property. I knew every hinge, every bolt, every screw.’

He added: ‘When we heard the news, we said, ‘Boy, did they ever get a great deal’, and secondly the quality is the finest. I’m pretty proud of it.’

The home’s heating and ventilation system was built to ‘sense’ fog rolling in from the ocean.

‘We used an algorithm to figure out when the heating system should shut down or spool up, based on the rate of change in the fog. We have sensors for sunlight on the south-facing wall to figure it out.’

Privacy attracted Mr Cunningham to the isolated spot – as it undoubtedly did the Sussexes.

‘The original 200-acre Riven Rock estate is off one of the main roads in Montecito and then you’re off on another sub-road and you’re in this private park-like setting, which is truly amazing. It’s what hooked us on the property in the first place, the privacy of it.

‘It was just calling out for a beautiful home to be built on it.’

Mr Cunningham and his wife, whose son and daughter were raised in the house, built it specifically for the purpose of entertaining.

‘It’s a wonderful place to have lots of family around and it gave the kids memories they still talk about to this day.

‘We bought it in 1999 and did a year’s worth of design and permits and three years of construction. That’s the norm for that size of place.

‘It’s a very private family home upstairs and then the main floor and basement are great rooms with an indoor-outdoor lifestyle in a beautiful property you can enjoy with lots of people.

‘It’s a great place for large families to get together and it’s very private as well. We thought a lot about the kids and the interaction between the kids being upstairs when it’s bedtime and downstairs playing when it’s not bedtime.

‘We wanted good separation where lots of people could still be downstairs having a glass of wine while it’s time for the kids to go to sleep and not be disturbed by it.

‘There’s a grandparents’ suite, the main guest suite, living room, dining room, kitchen, pantry – all that is on the main floor.

‘The kitchen is probably one of the coolest rooms in the house. It opens on to the side patio where the pizza oven and outdoor tables are. Living in Montecito, there’s a lot of indoor-outdoor lifestyle, so you easily move from decks to indoors.

‘My wife designed the whole kitchen and loved the layout and flow, so she could do her thing while there’s a two-year-old hanging on to her shin.’

However, Mr Cunningham sounded one note of caution. In 2018, devastating mudslides – triggered by heavy rain saturating the hills which had been ravaged by wildfires – came within 200ft of the property.

He said: ‘We sure as hell didn’t think about it [the mudslides] when we were building but certainly it’s something I would be thinking about now.’

Mr Cunningham sold the house in 2009 because the couple wanted to downsize but they still live close to their dream home.

The buyer was controversial Russian billionaire Sergey Grishin, 54, who was nicknamed the ‘Scarface Oligarch’.

Mr Grishin recently denied claims that he threatened to kill his ex-wife Anna Fedoseeva.

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