In the middle of a Thursday afternoon, Ruth Johnson, 75, and her dog Madame Tawni John, a six-month-old Papillon, strolled across an empty parking lot, seemingly alone despite living in a complex with 187 apartments.
"I like the space, and mostly I like the design of it," Johnson said of the two-bedroom Anne Arundel County apartment she shares with her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. "It's unique, not like your average apartment. It's not a box."
Fieldstone Farm, a complex that opened in December in the Piney Orchard planned community in Odenton, is winning raves from tenants for its design and location. Each apartment has nine- or 12-foot ceilings, a gas fireplace and laminate wood floors in the entranceway and dining rooms. Above the fireplace there is a nook for a television, complete with cable hook-up. There are multiple electrical outlets on each wall and cable hook-ups throughout the apartments.
Kathleen Ireton, 57, and her husband moved into their new two-bedroom in March. "They are beautiful, the way they are laid out. Being brand new has its advantages," she said.
For Ireton, living at Fieldstone Farm is temporary. "I can look out my sliding glass door and see where they are building my condo," she said. Each apartment has its own patio or balcony. "Ours is very private."
Johnson said that her Papillon, known as T.J., loves the patio and that the apartment community is pet-friendly, especially with the wooded area across the street.
Ireton also has a dog. "People who live in apartments want to have dogs also, and there hasn't been a problem," she said.
The kitchens are open, with white walls and gray granite countertops. Each kitchen has a microwave, icemaker, electric stove and dishwasher; above the cabinets, there is additional storage space. Units have washers and dryers.
"What's nice is the bedrooms are separate," Ireton said. "If I go in the bedroom and I shut the door, I can't hear, and I've never heard anybody throughout the entire building. I think they are nice, very well constructed."
One of the other pluses for her is that after 30 years of living in her own house north of Baltimore, she still has easy access to her old neighborhood. "Proximity is great. I am originally from northeast Baltimore County and I've lived up there most of my life, practically. My husband's job transferred him to Hyattsville. You can be in Columbia in a half-hour, Annapolis in a half-hour and Baltimore in about 45 minutes. You are about a half-hour to 45 minutes from D.C.," she said.
Johnson has spent her time hunting down stores closer to home. "When I came in here, I thought we were in the middle of nowhere," she said. "I thought it was going to be kind of bad; it's not bad at all."
The management company, Dolben Co., provides residents with a list of services such as banks, restaurants, schools and hospitals in the surrounding area. For example, the nearby Piney Orchard Marketplace includes a supermarket and restaurants.
The Piney Orchard Community Center is about a mile away. It serves the whole Piney Orchard community, which has about 8,500 residents. The center allows Fieldstone Farm residents access to amenities including tennis courts and 45-acre nature preserve with trails for biking and jogging. Piney Orchard, which is still being built, also has an ice rink and its own elementary school.
Trisha Decker, 35, who lives with her son, Sean, 7, in a two-bedroom, two-bath Fieldstone Farm apartment, said she uses the indoor lap pool at the community center. Fieldstone Farm also has its own pool and clubhouse with 24-hour gym access, a billiard table and flat-screen television.
Decker said she finds the apartments convenient to shopping and hasn't had any problems finding things. In addition, she said, "I feel safer here than I did in Germantown. I'll go out to my car at midnight, no problem." She said that while the complex's parking lots start to fill up in the evening, parking isn't a problem, but added that she has her own garage.
Ron McCalop, 37, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment, also appreciates his garage. "It is a nice size; they have two different sizes," he said. "The smaller one is enough to get a car in." He rents the larger size, though. "I have a motorcycle in there and a car and a bunch of boxes in there."
McCalop said he looked all over for an apartment and chose Fieldstone Farm for its convenience.
Property manager Tenley Jablinske said: "It is central to everything. You can't really lose living here. Everything is 20 minutes away; it doesn't hurt that it is brand new and beautiful."
Ireton said living in Fieldstone Farm has eased the transition from house to apartment. "The grounds are well kept. I would say that everything is well kept around here," she said. "It's a very nice area, nice people, nice development."