Our living room fireplace takes up most of one wall and two of the other walls are filled with windows and/or archways. So, the fireplace has also made living room setup quite a pain - you can't exactly stick anything in front of it and pretend it's not there.
That, and it was kind of ugly.
(excuse the poorly lit iPhone pictures, including the second one which seems to have stretched poor Sean out)
We weren't a big fan of the red paint and brass fixtures - they were outdated and really sucked light out of the room.
...then we figured out we could remove the fixtures, which made a big difference in opening up the room...
...then Sean brought home a $5 can of charcoal-colored "oops" paint at Home Depot and I got to thinking....then taping...then painting. We also painted the area around the fireplace to match the walls, and gave the mantle a few coats of white semi-gloss paint for more of a modern look.
...and this is the final result! Terrible picture and dirty floor, but (if I do say so myself) the fireplace looks much better. It feels more fun and modern and basically more our style. I know it's cliche but it really never ceases to amaze me what a change a few coats of paint can make!
Speaking of paint, the wall paint looks like a totally different color in the last two pictures, but it's the same (Glidden colormatch of Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter). Depending on the light it really morphs from beige to grey.