Almost every time I post a photo of my fireplace, I get comments about how much you like it. Did you know that it's not the original fireplace? I looked through a gazillion photos and can't seem to find a good "before" picture, but I can give you a good idea of the original fireplace.
This is a photo of what the front of our home looked like before I redesigned it. See that wall of rock? Now, imagine that exact same rock wall as a fireplace. What you may not be able to see is that some rocks jut out so far that my boys would literally rock climb the fireplace (as well as the front of the house). There was no mantle, and because of the strange rock formations we couldn't hang a picture. I managed to hang a huge wreath off one of the protruding rocks, but it wasn't centered in the middle. It also had an over-sized, rock covered hearth that stuck out an additional two-plus feet into the room. Just getting rid of it gave us a lot more usable space.
We tore that monstrosity down all by ourselves. Our three youngest sons did a lot of the work. It was our practice run for tearing down the rock on the front of the house. It was a HUGE, dusty job! We re-purposed all of the rock into a dry stream bed in our back yard. We hired a friend to put up sheet rock and then my husband and I built the mantle. We used this picture, that I had torn out of a magazine, as our inspiration. Do you do that? I can't throw a magazine away until I've gone through it and torn out anything and everything that interests me. Right now I have three stacks waiting to be sorted through and torn apart. Magazines are a wonderful idea source for making improvements in your home.