The Tribeca Loft series of images was inspired by the work of Fearon Hay Architects, as photographed by Richard Powers. My goal was to stick as close as possible to the photos of Richard and concentrate on realism above all.
When modeling the space I sought to remain close to the look of the apartment and only took some liberties with the furnishing and the art. One challenge was to replicate the slight imperfections of this renovated industrial space. In this respect the pillars are an obvious focus of interest, and therefore I dedicated quite a bit of time to getting them right.
After modeling a rough base mesh in Max, I exported it into ZBrush where I used a variety of brushes to replicate the rugged surface of cement or plaster (Fig.01). After decimating the sculpt I exported it back to Max (Fig.02), adding another level of details via a cement Bump map.
Another useful way of adding imperfections to nearly everything is the liberal use of noise textures in different slots, such as Bump, Glossy, Specular or even Displacement, or just as a Noise modifier in Max on top of the geometry. There is a lot of noise added to many of the materials and on many of the objects in this scene. Fig.03 shows how an almost imperceptible Noise modifier (fractal noise or not) will add nice random chaotic variations in the surface of the metal, which translates in nice, more realistic reflections. The same kind of low-frequency, non-fractal noise is added to the Bump channel of the plastic panels in the kitchen in order to give them a slight bend. Even the vegetable on the counter top has different forms of noise in the Bump channels.