Introducing This by That, an architectural agency and OG Second Home Hollywood company that has been with us since the beginning. Whether they’re busy representing innovative clients in the architecture and cultural space or curating incredible programming, co-founders Danielle Rago and Honora Shea are delightful to have on our campus. Read all about the incredible work they do, some tips for where to eat in LA, and how Second Home has been a part of their business over the past four years.
Tell us about This by That: what do you do? How did you start? What was the inspiration behind it?
We’re an agency representing a small group of boundary-pushing independent architecture studios, firms who don’t just produce beautiful work, but who are actively innovating in terms of materials, form, and craft; who are engaged in research and ideas; and who have a commitment to social impact and the well-being of people and the planet.
For the past six years or so, our primary focus has been press & communications strategy – bringing the work of these studios to the broader cultural conversation through media exposure, and helping to shape and refine their narratives and public profiles. We’re excited to start offering more business development support to these firms this year, by expanding into the realm of “design matchmaking” – matching our architect clients with projects and partners that are aligned with their values and goals, including developers, hospitality companies, and cultural institutions. We will also be available to consult with such entities on finding the right architect for their project.
We (co-founders Danielle Rago and Honora Shea) started This by That based on a mutual love of architecture and a belief in its enormous impact and possibility.
How long have you been at Second Home?
Since it opened in 2019!
You’ve worked with some really cool clients – what are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked with them on?
This past year we saw some of our first “design matchmaking” efforts come to fruition – we were delighted to help our client Architensions receive a commission to design one of the art installations at Coachella, “The Playground”, and to match our client Worrell Yeung with a commission to design Canal Projects, an art gallery in Soho, NYC that opened this past fall. We’re excited for a few new partnerships and projects – global in reach – to come online this coming year.
Your community and pro-bono clients are awesome. How did you start this program and tell us about some of the people/collectives that you work with?
It’s an unfortunate reality that big money dictates what gets designed and built in cities, and it’s often in the interest of a privileged few. That’s why we are proud to support design for the public good by offering pro-bono PR services to efforts like Design Advocates, a network of independent firms in New York City who collaborate on offering pro-bono design + strategy services to nonprofits and community organizations, among other initiatives to enhance equity in the built environment.
We also believe we should be active in helping to further equity and representation within the profession, which led us to begin our “Studio Visits” program, in which we offer free one-hour consulting sessions to BIPOC-led architecture firms that are just starting out. Interested parties can email [email protected] to sign up!
We love that programming is an important part of your business and that you’re always working toward events that celebrate women in architecture as well as super inspiring topics. Tell us how you go about curating programming events, how doing these events started, and share some of your favorites!
Programming feels organic for us, since part of our mission is bringing conversations about architecture to the broader public – we love to help people learn about the built environment and how it affects them! On one hand, our clients are often developing projects or workshopping ideas that they are itching to get in front of people, so that’s often the impetus for a talk or panel. But more generally, we like to reach new audiences by weaving conversations about architecture into other topics of cultural relevance. Our “Architecture of Art” talk coming up at Second Home during Frieze Week will feature designers and artists talking about spaces for culture and community.
We’ve also been doing yearly Women in Architecture dinners, which are really fun ways to build up a network of supportive female-identifying practitioners, and experiment with and share new ideas. Last year, we hosted a dinner in Brooklyn with Madame Architect that featured an amazing table installation by our clients French 2D called “Dinner Cozy” – it was a tablecloth made of Mylar emergency blanket, quilted on the underside, with tendrils that came off of the table that guests could wrap themselves with. It was all about “architecture at the scale of the body” and how to design for comfort and warmth, and was also just a great conversation starter. Honestly, these evenings are also just really fun ways to connect with and celebrate our friends and colleagues in the space.
What are some tips you have for architects/designers looking to work with a firm like yours?
Engaging a PR or business development consultant or strategic partner is a big step for a small architecture firm – it costs a bit money, and it means you’ll be putting yourself out there in a way you might have shied away from before. To get the most out of the experience, keep an open mind, make sure you have the capacity on your team to make the necessary improvements to your marketing materials and the way you tell your story, and have patience! Building a public profile, and securing press or finding new partners takes repeated engagement over time.
What are some tips you have for starting a business? Highs and lows thus far?
Don’t be afraid to go with the flow – it’s important to have a long term plan and set goals, but it’s also important to know when it makes sense to pivot, to adjust your business model slightly or explore new service or product areas. Part of this is having a strong sense of who you are and your values – as founders, as a business – and letting those values guide you, even if it’s down a path you couldn’t quite see when you first started out.
I’d also say it doesn’t matter what business you are in, it’s absolutely essential to have good writers and communicators on your team. Also, hire people for your team that you want to work with on a personality level as well as a skills level. That goes for clients too if you can help it! It’s a joy to be inspired by and have fun with the people you work with.
What is your favorite thing about Second Home?
So much to love – indoor/outdoor space, fresh air, natural light, lush garden paths to take a walk when things get intense….the environment really helps with mood and energy.
How has Second Home changed the way you work?
The energy here is really communal and collaborative, and there’s really an ethos of flexibility – both physically, in terms of all the different types of spaces you can choose to work in, but also creatively. It really encourages out-of-the-box thinking and idea flow!
What initially drew you to Second Home/what have you been surprised by in working here these past few years?
We were looking to move on from a home office situation right around the time Second Home was opening in LA, and given SH’s commitment to design and its impact on our well-being, and the thoughtful architecture of the space, it was really the perfect fit for us and our brand.
But I think we’ve also been happily surprised by the supportive nature of the community here, as well as all of the tangible, day-to-day physical and creative benefits of being surrounded by plants and natural light.
What inspires you?
Our clients! Honestly we are lucky to be working with some of the most talented, innovative, creative, and caring architects in the business.
What are you listening to right now?
Aya Nakamura, she’s a Malian-French pop singer who is fantastic.
Any favorite shows that you’re obsessed with?
Euphoria. And White Lotus, duh.
What are 3 restaurants that are a must visit for you in LA?
Luv2Eat Thai, Yangban Society, always and forever Bestia.
Do you have any favorite architecture projects in LA that are a must visit?
We always take our visitors to Second Home! It’s the best contemporary reuse project in LA. The Schindler House (MAK Center) and the Neutra VDL House are also must-visits.