Finally I could stand it no longer, I had to do something about the hideousness that was my fireplace. I wouldn't paint just any brick fireplace, but this thing was the most hideously fugly red brick fireplace and required drastic action. Words can't even describe it, so I'd better just show you:
I've been loathing this monstrosity for three years. But finally, after being inspired by so many great white fireplaces, I painted the brick (using primer and high gloss enamel) and sprayed the insert a cast-iron aluminum color. I even cleaned out the ash and leftover burnt wood from the firebox first, which was the part I dreaded most. I'll probably paint the mantle white too eventually, but I wanted to try it au natural for a while first.
I'd still like to embellish it with a wood surround and new mantle someday, but for now, I'm pretty happy.
*Tip: Check the auto-supply store for an even wider range of colors that can withstand high heat than what you'll find at the home-improvement store.