The orchestrated recognition of phosphoinositides and concomitant intracellular release of Ca2+ is pivotal to almost every aspect of cellular processes, including membrane homeostasis, cell division and growth, vesicle trafficking, as well as secretion. Although Ca2+ is known to directly impact phosphoinositide clustering, little is known about the molecular basis for this or its significance in cellular signaling. Here, we study the direct interaction of Ca2+ with phosphatidylinositol sphosphate (PI(4,5)P-2), the main lipid marker of the plasma membrane. Electrokinetic potential measurements of PI(4,5)P-2 containing liposomes reveal that Ca2+ as well as Mg2+ reduce the zeta potential of liposomes to nearly background levels of pure phosphatidylcholine membranes. Strikingly, lipid recognition by the default PI(4,5)P-2 lipid sensor, phospholipase C delta 1 pleckstrin homology domain (PLC delta 1-PH), is completely inhibited in the presence of Ca2+, while Mg2+ has no effect with 100 nm liposomes and modest effect with giant unilamellar vesicles. Consistent with biochemical data, vibrational sum frequency spectroscopy and atomistic molecular dynamics simulations reveal how Ca2+ binding to the PI(4,5)P-2 headgroup and carbonyl regions leads to confined lipid headgroup tilting and conformational rearrangements. We rationalize these findings by the ability of calcium to block a highly specific interaction between PLC delta 1-PH and PI(4,5)P-2, encoded within the conformational properties of the lipid itself. Our studies demonstrate the possibility that switchable phosphoinositide conformational states can serve as lipid recognition and controlled cell signaling mechanisms.