Many of these rock fireplaces were constructed using black mortar between the rocks and made the fireplace look very dark and in contrast to today's light and bright modern interiors.
One of my many talented clients considered taking a pry bar and a hammer to her fireplace, but decided that if she lightened up the fireplace it might fit in nicely with her colorful country decor. She literally went over the black mortar with an off white and really changed the look of her fireplace. You will also see in this photo that she also painted the paneling which really changed the look of the living space.
What a huge difference!
If you do opt to completely remove the rock and your tastes run to something more contemporary, in this next photo my client decided to keep the original mantel but replaced the surround and hearth with a beautiful marble. When my client originally bought this home, the fireplace was not featured in the photos. We currently have this home on the market and the fireplace is now the focal point of this living room.
The warm colors of this living room are all tied into the fireplace.
You can view the tour of this home at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXfZ9vkZbu8