When Penny Long, owner of the Scottsdale rock ’n’ roll chic boutique Electric Ladyland, met her husband-to-be, there was just one thing Long needed to know. “I asked him, ‘Are you opposed to pink?’ ”
Apparently, he answered correctly. As Long shows me around the home she shares with retired land developer Bill Long in Cave Creek — romantic Diana Krall music providing an elegant soundtrack in the background — it’s apparent her husband isn’t opposed to much. That includes Dior bags (and their matching shoes) as coffee table centerpieces, hard-to-ignore fuchsia sofas and rhinestones covering anything that will hold still.
“No, no one’s ever said it’s ‘too much,’ ” says Long, looking dismayed at the possibility. Of course, just by meeting Long, one can tell that “too much” isn’t a phrase that exists in her vocabulary.
Long, who’s decked out for our interview in the latest style of “skinny jeans” and an oversized rhinestone-encrusted belt that could signal ships, also sports four necklaces, three rings, two bracelets and a watch — all large, and all sparkling. Long, 48, blends easily into the sea of stuff in her new store at Scottsdale Fashion Square, which opened this month.
“I never thought about opening a store,” says Long, a West Coast native. “There were already so many stores in L.A.” Long’s career in fashion started nearly at the pinnacle of the design world as a merchandiser for Chanel. Working as an assistant to Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld, she was about to move to the East Coast and learn about buying in New York when she met her future husband. Deciding to part ways with her high-fashion career, she moved into his home in Arizona, which she described as “really hideous.”
“It had all these cowboy tiles,” she says.
Passing her do-you-likepink? test, he handed over the reins of home decor to his new wife, and soon Long was ordering oil paintings from Italy and scouring antique stores for table chandeliers.
“This room is so big, I couldn’t fill it up,” she says, waving an arm upward nearly hitting one of the dozen or so Chinese lanterns hanging from the chandelier above. She expresses her desire to cover every square inch of wall space with art, her favorites being portraits of women in various states of undress which she calls “empowering.”
However, five years after her marriage, Long says the party-of-one that being a housewife entailed grew old.
“I got bored. I said, ‘I need to do something.’ ”
With the help of her son, Ashley, she opened the first Electric Ladyland in 2001. Now, with three locations in the Valley, along with an Electric Ladyland Denim store in Phoenix, and a boutique spinoff, Floozy, in Scottsdale, the mother-son partnership barely has time to breathe, much less decorate. While Long still sees more to be done in her home, she says guests who visit can barely take in her one-of-a-kind style.
“I see them come in and just start looking around the room, trying to take it all in,” she says.
She says people ask her “all the time” when she’ll open up a home furnishings store, but her answer is swift.
“That’s a whole other fulltime job,” she says. “It’s clothing for now. Pick what you love, I say, and concentrate on that.”
Q&A with Penny Long
Q: Describe your decorating style in 10 words or less.
A: A room I could live with forever and never get sick of.
Q: What makes this living room your favorite spot?
A: To me, this room makes me feel good. On really bad days I come home and just sit in here, listening to music. This room is like my armor.
Q: How does your career influence the look of this room?
A: My career started in this house. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a store that looks like this house?” Every other store has white walls and some techno music. I wanted to give (customers) a great store to shop in, so that buying clothes is an afterthought.
Q: Pick one item in the room and briefly share the story behind it.
A: My husband’s dining table and chairs; he’s had them forever and they’re not really my deal, but I had to keep one thing from his past I could tolerate. (Laughs.) I had the chairs and table base painted along with the chairs recovered in a beautiful paisley vintage fabric.
Q: Is there anything in this room you’d do differently?
A: I wouldn’t change a thing; I love my house! I just wish I had more room to keep collecting! Thank God we’re building a new barn with an office for me and a guest room and gym for Bill. At least I can start decorating again and finding new stuff.
Q: What’s the next home design project you’re dying to tackle?
A: We’re buying a beach house in Laguna next summer, and I can’t wait to decorate in surf chic.
My Favorite Spot asks well-known Valley residents to show off their favorite places in their homes and share some of their decorating secrets. Whose house would you like to peek inside? E-mail At Home reporter Christina Vanoverbeke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (480) 898-6534.