Urban Barn Launches Home Collection in Partnership with Canadian Designer [Interview]

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Calgary-based designer Aly Velji has launched an exclusive collection with Canadian furniture and home decor retailer Urban Barn.

The collection was launched online in January and was launched in all stores starting on February 17.

“Partnering with an incredible Canadian company with such strong roots like Urban Barn was a dream come true,” said Velji, Principal of Aly Velji Designs. “The vision for this collection was to create an approachable, thoughtful and curated collection of pieces that not only embodied my personal aesthetic but also my love of travel.”

Sébastien Fauteux

The design company is celebrating 15 years being in business, specializing in both commercial and residential interiors. It has projects across Canada and the world. 

“We have made it a priority to partner with creative and thoughtful Canadian designers and it’s been such a pleasure partnering with Aly on the Wanderlust collection, bringing a new perspective to Urban Barn’s designs,” said Urban Barn’s Creative Director, Sébastien Fauteux.

Aly Velji x Urban Barn at South Granville (Image: Urban Barn)
Aly Velji

Velji said the company has been using Urban Barn to source furniture for projects during his 15 years in the design world. 

“About three and a half years ago, I got introduced to the marketing team while at a chair design show in Vancouver . . . and then started the conversation with them. Initially it was supposed to be like a textile collection and then they approached and said ‘actually we think we want to do a full furniture collection’,” he said. “Obviously I was over the moon about that.”

Featuring furniture and décor inspired by faraway places, this collection incorporates unexpected details that bring a sense of adventure to everyday spaces. With a mix of design styles, patterns and textures, the Wanderlust collection features 17 pieces ranging from accent chairs and console tables to rugs and toss pillows.

Encompassing a variety of transitional pieces, the Wanderlust collection is welcoming and versatile, allowing consumers to style pieces into existing interiors to make it their own. The collection speaks to a new way of design, influenced by different parts of the world and a new renaissance of mixing traditional and modern pieces. To view the Wanderlust collection, access the Aly Velji lookbook.

Urban Barn at Queen & Spadina (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Urban Barn curates furniture and accents, balancing a range of designs from urban contemporary to modern rustic. The Vancouver-based company opened its first location in 1990 and now operates 55+ home décor shops across the country. 

Velji is known as a master of mixing design styles, patterns, and textures, he loves to add a hint of the unexpected to each of his projects—ensuring that each design is personalized, goes beyond the current trends, and stands the test of time. Serving both residential and commercial clients, he is also a familiar face in the Canadian television and media community and has received numerous awards for his designs, most recently a nomination for Designer of the Year and Home of the Year from Western Living Magazine.

“For me, when we started having these talks with Urban Barn, first of all it was very important to me that my collaboration was with a Canadian company. I love to bring Canadian companies, Canadian talent and the designs that I do together. I also wanted to make my collection approachable. I think that good design should be for everyone and I think what happens sometimes is when designers do collaborations with larger companies the price points are not really attainable,” said Velji.

“When speaking with Urban Barn, I knew that I definitely wanted to make a collection that was relatable, approachable and not only carried sort of my aesthetic of interior design but made it so that it was achievable for the everyday customer. I think that’s a large portion of what Urban Barn is all about – to sell to the everyday person. That to me was really important in making it approachable, really well designed but also at a price point that anybody could afford.”

Aly Velji x Urban Barn at IDS 2023 (Image: Urban Barn)
Aly Velji x Urban Barn

Over the past couple of years, Canadian consumers have spent more time in their homes because of the pandemic due to lockdowns and their own personal safety concerns. That has been a boon for retailers that have anything to do with homes, particularly in the area of furniture and decor.

“Even as a design firm, we’ve never been busier. The pandemic really forced people to spend a lot of time in their spaces and realizing that they’re maybe not utilizing the spaces as much as they could,” said Velji. “That kind of spurred this whole movement in people spending time at home.

“I feel that Urban Barn their whole motto right now is ‘right at home’ and I think that’s really important because I feel that more people are wanting their spaces now to feel more comfortable, more inviting, cozy. That’s definitely saying that the everyday consumer is also now a little bit more savvy when it comes to design as well with Instagram and Pinterest and social media outlets that are out there. People know what good design is and how to make their spaces look well put together.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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