Meet Furniture Maker Collins Heavener

June 15, 2022

Collins Heavener outfits Martha’s Vineyard homes with heirloom-quality furniture.

Text by Robert Kiener

As custom furniture maker Collins Heavener chats in the timber-framed Chappaquiddick workshop he and friends built from scratch, he points to one of the soft maple boards that are stacked against a nearby wall. “That one cost me a week’s work,” he says with a quick laugh.

He explains that he had recently used the wood to fashion a trestle base for an eleven-foot-long dining table commissioned by a local client. “After I completed the table trestle I realized, partly because of the maple’s unusual grain direction, it could eventually break apart and fail in say, sixty- or eighty-some years,” he says. “I want my work to last for centuries. So I tossed it aside and started over with new wood.”

The story is classic Heavener. It reflects both the integrity with which he creates his unique work—elegantly simple Shaker-inspired tables, chairs, dressers, and cabinets—and his fascination with
exploring the technology of wood, a subject he studied at University of Massachusetts Amherst. He takes special delight in working with local materials whenever he can. “For such a small island, Chappy has an astonishing variety of trees,” he says.

Nearly all of Heavener’s furniture, created under the moniker Marshall Farm Wood-Works, stays on Martha’s Vineyard and Chappaquiddick. Some eighty percent of his commissions are from designers and architects with area projects and the rest are from islanders.

“I really enjoy the intimate quality of collaborating with a client during the design phase,” he explains. A favorite recent project was a series of cabinets he made from vertical-grain fir, which had been reclaimed from the home of a local client’s late grandfather. “I take great pleasure in projects that have a sense of history and narrative.”

A Vermont-born transplant to Chappaquiddick, Heavener has combined his love of carpentry with a deep interest in farming. Indeed, in addition to his busy one-man furniture business, he and his wife own and operate an Icelandic sheep farm and a small seasonal (June–August) vegetable farm. “I am a furniture maker first, then a farmer,” says the tall, trim thirty-five-year-old. “And my wife and I are incredibly grateful to work and raise a family on a beautiful New England farm on this gorgeous island.” 

EDITOR’S NOTE: To see more of Collins Heavener’s work, visit marshallfarmwoodworks.com.