Sooty eyesore ---> cute display nook (in this case used for children's books).
First I capped the gas line (keeping the cap visible so that present and future owner's would remember that there was a gas line terminating there). Then I plugged the drafty chimney and attached plywood backing with masonry screws. Lastly I added in the knotty pine beadboard.
Bar counter seating --> toy shelves.
Built from a combination of reclaimed pallets (clean and chemical free) in combination with new pine boards, these sturdy shelves were built strong enough to climb.
Shelves: 1x6's glued and pocket screwed together.
Ends: Colorful bits from the wood pile, with extra distressed textures added by my son (then four years old) and his trusty hammer.
The whole assembly attached to the wall with inconspicuous steel L brackets.
If present/future owners wanted to reconvert the area to bar counter seating, it'd be as simple as removing a handful of screws.
Cue the base solo (and custom oak transition strip)! Although I've done four baseboard installation projects over the years, I only thought to take pictures of this one.