IDEA: make a faux fireplace cover. Use a black velvet background, affix pieces of trimmed-off logs, hang to cover fireplace space, probably store candles and other entertainment items in a tote behind it. This avoids making it a space for spiders and other bugs to hide.
Top 8 Fireplace Mantle Ideas check this website out. I especially love the one with columns on either side of the fireplace, which help hold up the mantle. It's on the upper left hand corner of this "front page .