Fire It Up

I have been wanting to do a fireplace makeover in our family room for about as long as we have lived here.
I just don't care for the red brick and I really don't care for the huge insert, that we have never once used.
My dream would be to add a gas fireplace insert and somehow makeover the brick. Either {gasp} paint it, OR cover it with some mdf and trim OR cover it with tile/stone.
I hate showing my fireplace but if I'm going to ask your advice, then I feel I have to give you the whole picture.
Keep in mind this is the room that we are currently still putting some final finishes on. The new carpet has been installed, wall/ceiling painting is done, and curtains are hung. But please look past the missing moldings, unpainted door, drill, and paint cans and such. I am also going to be adding a console table there to the far left wall and art.
I know you all are going to be wanting to hurry and pin these pics onto your "dream house" pinterest boards, but try to restrain yourself for now. (Ha ha.)
Here is goes warts and all....

So, you see the reason I want to remove this monster of an insert? We also need to cover up those fans on the bottom of the hearth. Whatever we do choose, my husband really wants to keep the wood box exposed, for he likes the arch of it. I do too, plus if we covered it the fireplace would be off balance.

Here are some examples that have caught my eye.

Barn wood via

Stone via

Painted brick via

painted brick via

Painted brick via

mdf/trim via

So, what one do you like? Painted, stone, barn board, mdf? Help me!

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