Good Questions: What to do with this Awkward Fireplace?

Hello AT,

Please help! Though I've been an avid reader of shelter mags and blogs for years, I'm at a loss now that I'm a homeowner.

We bought a house from the couple who bought it new(!) in 1950... beautiful oak floors and molding, wide hallways, cedar-lined closets.

But the fireplace and built-in shelves in the living room are "off" somehow, and we're disagreeing as to why...

(Note: Include a pic of your problem and your question gets posted first.)

I think it's because the mantle isn't substantial enough.

My boyfriend thinks it'll be fine once the fireplace surround is painted black (instead of gold-ish).

What should we do with this awkward fireplace?

By the way, the horrid wall-to-wall carpet in the picture has been ripped out.

Thanks! Marisa