Primary Play – Marlton House

Primary Play – Marlton House

Following on from their successful work with Hewison House, the main administration building at St Michael’s Grammar School, Christopher Elliott Design were given the opportunity to design the refurbishment of Marlton House; the inaugural school building, circa 1895.

The building is old and heritage listed so only minor structural changes were allowed.

The general tone of the interiors was dull and uninspiring.

Most rooms required additional resources, and the building had an inconsistent style.

The students wanted a design that would inspire them.

And the teachers wanted spaces that could adapt to their ever-changing educational requirements.

So the design challenge was how to achieve the functional aspects of each space, and create positive, flexible environments that embrace the historical features of the building.

After consultation with the teachers and students, the Christopher Elliott Design team identified several key directives for the design.

One of those was the desire to make the classrooms feel connected to the landscape.

Typically, heritage buildings have small openings and apertures allowing limited natural light and can feel disconnected with their external environment.

That was the case with Marlton House.

However, Christopher Elliott Design sought to evoke a sense of nature with a palette of green hues, and a custom-designed carpet motive; inspired by leaf debris found in the forest.

That colour palette was selected because it gave ‘life’ to the spaces, but was calming and felt settled.

Their approach was similar to their previous work with Hewison House.

And although the building was full of character, Christopher Elliott Design took a more playful approach in keeping with a youthful learning environment.

The joinery design was born from the functional need for more storage, the aesthetic drive for a dramatic element, and to ground spaces.

Christopher Elliott Design chose to include a whimsical, random element of a bold cobalt blue arch; symbolic of the school’s embracive attitude for individuality.

Christopher said: “People’s emotional response to their space was a big consideration in the refurbishment as the learning environment is known to affect students’ retention of information.”

The scope of work included new flooring, painting, joinery, and lighting throughout.

And significant repairs of the building’s structure were also needed.

Another element of the design worth mentioning is the Klein blue colour that jumps out at you amongst a sea of green.

Randomly positioned on joinery as a door or shelf, it is one of the first things you see.

But its purpose is subliminal.

School environments can be a tough place for some.

And standing out isn’t always appreciated.

So the suggestion with the bright blue is ‘”It’s OK to be different.”

It might not seem like much, but that can mean a lot to not just a few.

Project Details

Project size – 615 m2
Site size – 1,040 m2
Completion date – 2019
Building levels – 2

Project Team

Interior Design

Christopher Elliott Design

Christopher Elliott Design is adept at working with heritage buildings, having previously worked with Victorian and Edwardian architecture across the residential and educational sectors.

They love working with old buildings full of character, especially when their clients allow us to take a progressive approach.

The design team included:

Christopher Elliott – Principal Designer
Sarah Chesterfield – Interior Designer
Will Harrington – Junior Interior Designer


Long Contracting

Melbourne-based Long Contracting was established in 1994 and is owned and managed by brothers Jonathan and Richard Long.

They provide a complete construction management service for their clients who seek high quality architecturally designed retail, institutional, private, commercial, and industrial buildings.



Mattioli are the leading protective coating solutions experts in Australia, providing innovative support to a diverse range of customers across the country.

Carpet Supplier


RC+D (Rugs, Carpet & Design) has over 30 years of experience in the carpet industry with locations throughout Australia. RC+D currently operates in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, and Melbourne.


Jack Lovel

Jack Lovel is an architectural photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. With ten years worth of experience, Jack has worked with some of the leading architects and design practices in the field including Splinter Society, Carr Design, Christopher Elliott and Biasol. His editorial work has featured in global publications like Dwell, Elle Decoration, Houses and Habitus.

Alongside his freelance practice, Jack has spent three years documenting Iwan Iwannoff’s architectural legacy in Western Australia, culminating in a 2019 exhibition entitled The Architecture of Iwan Iwanoff – Through the lens of Jack Lovel at Perth’s There Is Studio.

This body of work was initially inspired by the Iwanoff-designed Jordanoff house that Jack grew up in, and is a testament to his long fascination with – and passion for – contemporary architecture.

Photo Gallery

Click on a thumbnail image to enlarge.

Design © 2020 Christopher Elliott Design. All Rights Reserved.| Images © 2020 Jack Lovel. All Rights Reserved.

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