Why is it important to recognise the scars of everyday life? What is the value of recognising the imperfections of our surroundings rather than overlooking them in order to preserve the idea of the ideal? For conservation idealist William Morris and for the philosopher John Locke, this is a question of humanity. Experience is formative, creating who we are and shaping who we will be. Locke defines the immediate, unquestioning appreciation of the visual as ‘sensational thought’, equated with the superficial application of untested idealism typified by a Cartesian detachment from real space. For Locke the ability to compare, contrast and investigate often conflicting ideas or phenomena created ‘reflection’- a prerequisite for empirical action. ‘Reflection’ requires the messy business of engagement, critique, evaluation and negotiation. The surface provides the raw material for reflection - the relationship between the two is critical.