Glass Act

For almost a half century, Melbourne stained-glass masters Jerry Preston and John Emery have designed custom stained-glass windows, doors and lamps. Their work graces some of the Space Coast’s most distinctive homes, as well as a castle in Denmark.

Preston Studios shapes light and color into fragile magic

Moonshine Hill, the Melbourne home of Preston Studios

Moonshine Hill, the Melbourne home of Preston Studios, has no shortage of stunning stained-glass lamps. The pieces are sought after by collectors from around the world. Steven R. Hicks Photos

Moonshine Hill — as the house, stained glass studio and gardens of John Emery and Jerry Preston are collectively nicknamed — is not your average Florida vernacular homestead. 

Tucked in a leafy oasis within walking distance of Melbourne’s original courthouse, this is Preston Studios Central, a place where two exceptional stained-glass artists have unleashed a constantly flowing river of elegant doors, windows and lamps. Their work graces a serious number of the most stunning properties along the Space Coast and around the world, from British Virgin Islands villas to a Danish castle, and even some chapels in between.

Distinctive installations from Preston Studios can be seen in a significant number of homes — and even the clubhouse at Lansing Island in Indian Harbour Beach. A Preston lamp fetched a princely sum during an auction at Hearst Castle in California. A Preston window was featured in The New American Home, the showplace house that forms the centerpiece of the International Builders’ Show. 

“If they can’t create your vision, no one can,” said Kate Clarke, the interior designer of The New American Home in 2011. 

Preston Studios collectors are such a devoted bunch that they have been known to relocate their stained-glass windows and doors when they move. Another Preston fan has amassed 20 elaborate stained-glass lamps that rival any from Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio. 


Whoever built Moonshine Hill a hundred years ago could never have imagined that the modest cottage would one day be adorned with such an expanse of elaborate stained glass. Just in the small living room are eight stained-glass lamps that vary in size from floor to table versions. The front door is stained glass, and the original jalousie windows were long ago replaced with — you guessed it — intricate stained-glass artwork. 

“We don’t recommend this much stained glass,” Emery joked.

Everywhere around the house, from the bedroom to the kitchen, is stained glass. The lamps — some with thematic references to India, Egypt, Asia and other parts of the world — light nooks and crannies around the cottage. Some designs are Preston’s, others are Emery’s. 

The first of several lamps, bearing angel trumpet flowers, is Preston’s. Emery’s koi lamp includes Chinese symbols for double happiness, long life, good luck and prosperity.

“My idea was to bring them into the 21st century and broadcast these sentiments into a room, using electrical light energy,” Emery said.

hree lamps from the private collection of Preston and Emery grace an area of the living room at Moonshine Hill.

These three lamps from the private collection of Preston and Emery grace an area of the living room at Moonshine Hill. The artists’ globetrotting provides inspiration for their lamps’ elaborate and colorful designs.


Birds are a favorite subject for Preston

Birds are a favorite subject for Preston and Emery and this example makes for a stunning window at the artists’ Melbourne home.

Preston discovered the 1923 cottage in 1976, and quickly fell in love with the opportunities the two-acre property afforded him for $18,500.

Around that time, Preston and Emery had entered the rarefied world of stained glass not through intensive academic training or apprenticeship with a master, but rather through a bottle cutter they found at a drug store. They were looking for a craft that would produce holiday gifts for friends and family. They didn’t realize they had found a calling. 

“I never imagined it would be my life work,” said Emery, who spent his early life ricocheting through a series of jobs, including dancing in Disney’s Electrical Parade. 

Preston, a former field director for the American Red Cross, was looking for an alternative to a job that required living in far-flung locations. 

Bottle cutters were the craft rage in the early ’70s. While the initial pieces that Preston and Emery produced were simplistic, they nevertheless inspired the couple to take it to the next level — and the next and the next. Everything came together in 1974 when Preston sold his first stained glass lamp for $2,500. It’s a tidy sum today, but so significant almost half a century ago that it cemented the idea of going pro.

In 1976, Preston Studios was born in the Tin Lizzy shack that once housed a Model T in the Moonshine Hill enclave. Their big break arrived when Aquarina Beach and Country Club was built along Melbourne Beach, with Preston Studios glass installed in the clubhouse. The late George Plimpton, spokesman for the development, provided Preston Studios with international publicity. 

“It got us a lot of contacts,” Emery said.

Brevard Symphony Orchestra’s major fundraiser at Melbourne Beach’s Aquarina development started a connection that continues to this day. The BSO plans to host a fundraiser at Moonshine Hill on Jan. 16, followed by a second in February that will visit two Titusville residences that boast Preston Studios glassworks. 


The studio in the old carport is cooled by the shade of the grand live oak that originally piqued Preston’s interest in the property. The large, well-planned studio may have no air conditioning, but this is no ordinary carport, thanks to several stunning stained-glass windows and doors. Stacks of Kokomo Glass, the same glass Tiffany favored, have been filed against a back wall. 

Working the glass is labor intensive, and the open-air studio under the trees is well-used. “A window would take six weeks, if we were doing nothing else,” Emery said. But almost 50 years later, neither Preston nor Emery have plans to quit. At 88, Preston still does the copper foiling and takes care of the administration. “Even during the pandemic, we never stopped working,” said Emery. A singular Preston Studios commission took place during the pandemic, when Emery and Preston installed double entrance doors and several windows in the Lobeck residence in Malabar. 

Moonshine Hill is still a bustle of stained glass-related activity. Its owners remain busy with commissions, but they are also gearing up for the launch of a coffee table book on global stained glass. They hope to publish it next year.

Few kitchen pass throughs boast such outstanding lighting as these two stained-glass beauties at Preston Studios’ Moonshine Hill.

Few kitchen pass throughs boast such outstanding lighting as these two stained-glass beauties at Preston Studios’ Moonshine Hill.


The rambling garden that envelops the home is just as integral a part of the Preston/Emery compound as is the studio. A huge oak, a volunteer that thrived in the former corn patch that surrounded the cottage back at the turn of the century, serves as the conductor of a garden symphony that includes a collection of priceless mature tree specimens. A massive kapok tree, once a little twig Preston planted years ago, regales visitors with a riot of red flowers.

“We call it the red-carpet treatment,” Emery said. 

A huge plumeria and stands of bamboo and palms are ringed by palmettos, pines and other natives, creating an unexpected oasis that buffers the house from the rest of the world. Most of the trees were pocket-sized when they first arrived. “The large frangipani plumeria came as small cuttings from Dave and Linda Grover at Sun Harbor Nursery,” Emery said.  

One of the first outings after moving to the house was to visit the palm collection at Florida Tech’s botanical gardens. “As a consequence, over the years we accumulated Bismarckia to areca to sago to foxtail and many more.”

The large plants are complemented by an underbrush of a wide range of bromeliads, plus Rangoon creeper vines and angel trumpets, a favorite stained-glass subject that perfectly lends itself to representation in some of the lamps. 

A sizable pond, dug many moons back with the help of Emery’s son, is home to a family of “pet” snapping turtles that Preston feeds by hand. 

“Just look at YouTube or Facebook and you’ll see them,” Preston said. 

Like most artists, Preston and Emery may not be well-heeled financially. But surrounded by their art and the nature at Moonshine Hill, they are wealthy in things money can’t buy. 

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Maria Sonnenberg
professor at Florida Institute of Technology |

Maria is a prolific writer and proofer for Space Coast Living and an adjunct professor at Florida Institute of Technology’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business. When not writing, teaching or traveling, she can be found waging a one-woman war against her lawn and futilely attempting to maintain order among the chaos of a pack of extremely clueless wirehair dachshunds and an angst-driven basset hound.