The finishing touches of the fireplace side of our living room wall started out with one significant change:
We decided not to use it as a heat source! Not only are gas fireplaces horrifically bad for the environment, wood fireplaces are a HUGE source of energy loss in the home (don't believe me? Start a fire and watch how quickly the rest of your house gets cold as the cool air gets sucked out the hole you've opened up in your house, y'all...), and we had no interest in spending thousands for an insert, chimney repair, etc. So we decided to close it off and keep it purely decorative. First thing was removing & recycling the awful gas fireplace insert in the huge Mid Century Modern chimney. The fossil fuel nightmare was extricated & recycled by our heat pump contractors per my request when we had them remove all the other gas lines before move-in (FYI, even ignoring the planet, gas fireplaces are VERY inefficient as the space heaters they are, with >35% of gas going up the chimney, NOT heating the room!). As we detest natural gas, the other thing we did was call the gas company and have them retire the gas line altogether - yep, removing all evidence, from the meter to the lines out in the street. For free. All toxins from that are now gone. Wheee!
Folks, infrastructure fixes on your house are sexy - don't ignore them! I know the "we got a windfall and decided to do energy efficiency improvements / repipe the house / insulate the attic" doesn't initially seem as delicious as a tropical vacation, but trust me, long term investments in your home's health - and therefore yours - as well as your wallet are so, so rewarding. While we loved our super-efficient Blaze King woodstove back on the farm (that baby was so efficient in the morning it'd still be keeping the room warm, it was nuts!), here in the Skagit Valley it's not necessary, nor does it make sense financially (the wood we used on the farm was from trees on the property that were leaning dangerously already - we felled & split it ourselves, never buying cords from anyone) or environmentally (the super rad multi-split heat pump we got customizes heat to 3 different areas of the house as needed, a zillion times better than wood and our electric bills are TINY!). Ultimately the chimney will be removed down to the roof line in the spring, but in the meantime my husband got up there and capped it, closed the damper, gave it a good scrubbing, then painted the inside with leftover zero-VOC black paint I'd used when building our dishwasher's cabinet. I added an iron candelabra & eco-friendly soy candles for ambience (Why not beewax, you might ask? Well, being former beekeepers - we sold our hive & equipment to a friend with 17 acres when we came out here - we know that harvesting beeswax is VERY disruptive to colonies, and with pollinator populations dwindling at record speeds, we now buy only sustainably-produced soy or LED candles), and we now have a peaceful view of the fireplace...that's far more sustainable.