Sheila Landau: Colorful life, colorful designs


Scottsdale interior designer Sheila Landau has led a life as varied and colorful as the homes she decorates. A Michigan native, she has worked with a wide spectrum of clients, including some of society’s upper crust. She is totally candid when describing her career. “Designing is in my soul, and my passion has been there ever since I can remember. I remember designing homes with blocks as a child and instructing my mother where to place the piano when I was 3,” she laughs. Saturated with art, theater and music since childhood, it is no wonder she gravitated to interior design. Her mother painted, sculpted and played classical music by ear, enabling Sheila to appreciate the arts early on. “I have learned through the years, that art in all forms opens your eyes and heart,” says Sheila. “I believe design and art and architecture work together like Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel.”

Delighting in “risky and unexpected design twists,” Sheila is proud of the multi-faceted set of skills she has honed over the years. “I can build a house from the ground up,” she says. “In addition to doing the plans and the work a general contractor can do, I see myself as the conductor of the orchestra, guiding my clients to make the right decision.” Thanks to her keen imagination and use of sleek, upscale elements, Sheila has clients all over the Phoenix area. She provides guidance on architectural enhancement, furniture choices and placement, as well as complete remodeling jobs. She also enhances houses to facilitate a sale. “One client in McCormick Ranch made $100,000 more than her neighbors after I redid her home for resale,” she says.

Sheila’s illustrious career has been peppered with high-profile clients such as Lillian and Giocondo Jacuzzi, inventors of the Jacuzzi whirlpool tub; Lou and Priscilla Cohen, owners of Sheplers (Western wear stores); and Ginnie Dayton of the Dayton-Hudson department store chain. “I did three houses for the Daytons,” says Sheila. “When they were looking to move, they would not buy a house unless I gave the stamp of approval. They knew I would know what was right for them.”

As a child, Sheila had the cachet of growing up in an old Detroit family that has been around since the late 1800s. In a town where “everybody knew my name,” relatives like her great uncle, Samuel Levey forged a legacy by creating the Detroit Opera House and the Knollwood Country Club.

After graduation, she landed a plum position in the design department of Gorman’s, a high-end furniture store in the Detroit area. This fortuitous foray into the world of design enabled her to soak up valuable information on furniture styles and fabrics, paving the way for her ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) associate membership. “My first interior design job was doing buildings without walls that were sold to professionals: doctors, lawyers and dentists. I did all the electrical and space planning and even planned out where phones and heat ducts would go,” she recalls. Sheila’s lucrative career also included some commercial jobs, such as creating circle soffits (dropped spaces on ceilings) in living rooms of condominiums.

The building Sheila owned for her business, “Sheila Landau Designs” was as steeped in history as her lineage. “It was in a historic town called Franklin Village, Michigan, also known as the ‘town that time forgot,’” explains Sheila. “I had a historic house that was over 200 years old,” she says. “It was a hotel that travelers on horseback used. I was very busy and business was flourishing.”

To keep her edge, she sought out novel ways to make a dramatic statement. One of those techniques was installing a Lucite railing in a stairway. Another imaginative idea she pulled out of her bag of tricks was creating wood palm trees that came out of the wall for a client. “They were part of the décor and made the walls come alive,” she says. Even though her business was flourishing, the inevitable cycle of a changing economy came into play; causing a major shift in her career. The builders were going to Dallas, Las Vegas and Arizona, and Sheila and her contractor husband knew it was time to “follow the money” on the advice of friends. Arizona beckoned, and they have been in the “Valley of the Sun” ever since.

The fact Sheila didn’t know a soul in Arizona didn’t daunt her ambition or her dreams. The state was in a recession, as was Detroit, but she managed to parlay her love of color and design into a successful business venture – a stylish clothing boutique called “She” near the Biltmore. The store gained immediate attention, with Ginnie Dayton being one of her first clients. Jeannie Collins, who later created the trendy “Kiss Me Kate” boutique in Phoenix, was her clothing buyer and the store stayed open almost 20 years. Sheila also opened a store in Scottsdale Fashion Square. “Eventually the building industry boomed again, and everyone was decorating and renovating again. I really wanted to get back into the design game,” she says.

In addition to working on homes in Arizona, Sheila worked on the Coronado Shores condominiums in California, where she worked with an architect who cleverly used medallions, (three-dimensional circles within a circle), which were plastered and painted. The design duo also added moldings and dropped soffits, and put in lots of lights.

According to Sheila, the biggest design trend currently is quartz instead of granite and lighter colors. Shiny chrome is now more popular than brushed or rubbed bronze. “Things are cleaner looking now and more contemporary,” she says. “Especially if you have that Spanish villa look; that is pretty much gone. I find a lot of my clients are using their older things with newer things to create a unique look.”

Client Donna Horwitz has been working with Sheila for 13 years. “Sheila turned my house into a warm, friendly home,” she says. “In one day, we rearranged the whole house. Later on, we recovered chairs, put cushions on the sofas, put up crown molding and added new flooring. Plus, she picked out the ideal paintings to hang, that my late husband created. We wound up doing the whole kitchen plus carpeting and new flooring. I ended up with a new house!”

To see what wonders are in store for your home, contact Sheila at 602-809-5100, or visit  sheilalandaudesigns.com.

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