Annie and Gerard Kiladjian—she knows design, he knows hospitality—bring the comforts of home to locals and visitors alike.
Sitting at their round glass kitchen table, it’s apparent that Annie and Gerard Kiladjian know a thing
or two about making a guest feel welcome. There’s an arrangement of sunflowers and eucalyptus, red-patterned dessert plates, a French press of black tea, and a tempting plate of white-powdered cookies. Thoughtful consideration has gone into the small details, which comes as no surprise, considering what each host does: Gerard is the general manager of the Portland Harbor Hotel and Annie owns the interior design firm Annie K Designs. “Gerard takes care of the people who visit Maine at the hotel,” Annie explains, “and I take care of them at home.”
“We’re both very hospitable,” says Gerard. “It goes back to our Armenian heritage. Gatherings, family, having parties, and going places are all part of our culture.” The two are founders of the Armenian Cultural Association of Maine, an organization they revived after an earlier model stopped being active in the 1970s. Once it was reestablished, one of the first things they did was erect the Armenian Genocide Memorial on Cumberland Avenue, near the Bayside neighborhood, where many Armenian families and refugees settled in the first part of the twentieth century. The organization continues to meet a couple of times a year at picnics, dinners, lectures, dance performances, cooking classes, and even language lessons. “We try and keep the culture alive,” says Gerard.
The pair met around the time they were graduating from college—Annie at LaSalle College in Montreal and Gerard at Boston University—and married a few years later. Gerard worked for various hotels, and they lived in Montreal and New Jersey before arriving in Portland in 2000 for what was supposed to be a yearlong stop. By then they had two children, Alexandra and Aren, both of whom would go on to become class presidents at Portland High School. (Alexandra, now 22, works in hospital administration in Los Angeles and Aren, 18, attends James Madison University in Virginia.) “We fell in love with the area and decided we didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Gerard says.
Knowing they wanted to stay, Gerard began working at the Portland Harbor Hotel, one of the city’s first luxury hotels. He’s been there since 2004, save for a two-year stint at Ogunquit’s Cliff House, and helped to grow the hotel into the popular destination it is today. His latest focus is on the hotel’s two newest, seasonal properties. The Inn at Diamond Cove and Diamond’s Edge Restaurant and Marina are located on the site of Great Diamond Island’s Fort McKinley and only accessible by boat. While the new properties have taken up much of his time in the summer, he says his priority is always making sure that his staff is content. “Hotel management is managing people,” he says. “I do what I need to do to make sure that the staff is happy, because when they’re happy, my guests are happy. It’s not just about the building and the room and the bedspread. Those are material things. You can stay in a beautiful hotel, but if the service is not there, guests are not going to come back no matter how luxurious the bedspread is.”
Annie’s work has a similar intent. She turns lackluster spaces into livable rooms that not only meet the needs of her clients, but, much like good hotel service, are thoughtful and intuitive. She works so closely with her clients that the relationship they develop often turns from professional into personal. “I’ve probably become friends with 95 percent of my clients,” says the designer, who went out on her own almost a decade ago. “We’re on speed dial.” Her interior spaces—which might feature a pair of sky blue velvet slipper chairs with braided trim framing a fireplace, or a plush tufted headboard centered against Moroccan-inspired wallpaper—are elegant, sophisticated, and timeless. “It makes me happy to see something transformed from what it was to what it can be,” she says. “I like a neutral room with pops of color, so that in five years, you can change that pop and get a whole different look.”
Her fashion style is similar, but pared down. “I wear a lot of black,” says the designer, whose fashion background includes ten years spent at Guess clothing. “Black pants and a nice jacket. I’m low-key in my dress. I like nice clothes, but simple.” Gerard wears suits to work, but is more casual when he’s spending the day on Great Diamond Island. Then it’s nice pants and polo shirts. “He’s always very classic,” says Annie.
On their table, the French press sits empty except for the tea leaves stamped to the bottom. Both Annie and Gerard have busy afternoons ahead of them—she’s expecting a visit from Distinctive Tile and Design’s Larry Stoddard, and he has a meeting—but they’re ever the gracious hosts. “Have dessert before you
leave,” Gerard insists, motioning at the plate of untouched cookies. Before there’s even a chance for polite protest, Annie holds out a small plate of extras for me to take home.