The back walls of Bent, the new restaurant from Kai and Levi Bent-Lee (Susur Lee’s sons), serve as a gallery for 3,700 vintage toys and objets the boys’ mom, designer Brenda Bent, has collected over the past 25 years. We asked Brenda to take us through her delightfully creepy treasure wall.
“As corny as it sounds, I see beauty in these,” says Bent of the curios. “I lay them out on the floor and just stare at them. I like having things in the house where people would ask where I got them. I’ve collected puppets and old stuffed toys with plastic faces, but they wouldn’t fit in the walls.”
Each trinket is glued down in one of the 50 or so old letter-set trays that line the three walls. Bent and design partner Karen Gable laid out all the items on the restaurant’s dining-room table and spent three months gluing each toy onto the boxes.
These tiny bamboo cages were used to keep live crickets, which were snacks for pet songbirds. “The cricket cages were bought about 20 years ago in Hong Kong on Bird Street, which had a market where people sold pet birds and cages,” says Bent. “I got them because they were so elaborate and you can’t find this handiwork anywhere else.”
Pokémon, Creepy Crawlers, Spongebob, Thunderbirds
“These are from the boys. I usually collect things that were made before the 1950s, before things were mass-produced, when the toys had much better quality and detail.”
Chinese medicine bottles from Susur’s mom
“I get migraines and headaches, which the Chinese would call wind in the head or something. Susur’s mom, Madeline, would give me pills, and I was so in love with these beautiful bottles.”
Cigarette silks from the ’20s and ’30s
“I have a background in fabrics,” says Bent. “The colours, the dye, the fact that it’s real silk just makes them beautiful. I got my very first ones 20 years ago from an old antique store in Winnipeg, which is where I’m from.”
Hasbro Dolly Darlings dolls from the late-’60s
Bent was particularly fond of these dolls in her youth, though she didn’t begin amassing them until later in life. “I wanted them when I was a kid, but I could only have one toy a year,” she says. “Maybe I had a deprived childhood. I now have some that are worth $400 to $500 each.”
Bent, 777 Dundas St. W., 647-352-0092, bentrestaurant.com.