As it turned out, the president of LMA Group, Inc. returned to his roots—but on his own terms. Born and raised in New York City, Lee Manners comes from a construction family. As a student, he spent summers in his father’s steel fabrication shop, building railings and stairs, and producing shop drawings. Then—fascinated with modernism—he veered toward the visual side of things, and earned simultaneous degrees in architecture and interior design. Lee’s first job was for a commercial interior design firm in New York City. He rose quickly, becoming a project manager for the transformation of the NYC headquarters of a British bank from traditional to sleek and modern. “Fresh out of school, I was lucky to have client interaction at the highest level—for an ultra high-end project,” he says, reminiscing about the custom leather-wrapped door pulls: something would foretell his fascination with beautiful details. In 1975, he left the firm to co-found Stockman and Manners. Specializing in restaurant design, the partners put their signature on prominent projects, including the U.S. Steakhouse in the Time and Life building, the first renovation of the Brasserie in the Seagram’s Building, and the simple but modern concessions at the Statue of Liberty. They were also hired to create concepts for forward-thinking projects, including a restaurant overlooking the sculpture garden at the Museum of Modern Art (it turned out to be far ahead of its time). They designed everything: down to the uniforms. When it came time to expand, Lee went on his own. He founded Lee Manners and Associates. The new firm had three focal points: 1) corporate interiors for major clients such as ARCO, 2) product and graphic design, and 3) loft conversions in Soho and other fast-growing New York City neighborhoods. Lee and his team designed a Soho loft building from the ground-up. And that is where things took a turn. That was two decades ago. New York City real estate has since risen, fallen, and risen again. LMA has become a firm specializing in apartment renovations, combinations, and other high-end residential construction services in Manhattan. Architects appreciate Lee’s thorough grasp of design, concepts, drawings, and constructability. Clients appreciate the firm’s respect for deadlines and visual beauty. Lee simply takes pride in his work—and in being a contractor of extreme integrity. “I have a deep appreciation for the longevity of good work—and of a good relationship,” he says.