My house has an extraordinarily ugly wall covered in river rock that surrounds the fireplace, includes a bumpy uneven hearth, and extends right and left to the corners of the room. It looks a lot like this fireplace
* but more brown than grey. My room is bigger and there are windows above the stone at right & left.
This is so unattractive and sloppy looking to me. It's not rustic stacked stone, it's random shapes forced into thick mortar and it looks very unnatural and unsteady to me (it is sturdy though). Also the hearth doesn't have the same slate top as in the picture, it's bumpy and uneven (so I can't even put candlesticks or anything else on it, they tilt). It's our favorite room in the house, we're in here all the time and this huge ugly wall of stone is cold and heavy looking.
Any ideas for cosmetic solutions? Also on how to make the hearth usable? I can't afford to tear it down and redo the wall. No built-in shelves on the sides due to the windows. I have no problem painting the rock, slathering stucco or something over it, drawing emoticons on each rock, etc. The fireplace is gas with a sealed chimney if that makes a difference.
Open to any ideas, bonus for those with images (most images I've found are of tidy stacked flat stone or brick, or of projects that actually want
the ugly river rock that I'm trying to get rid of).
*My apologies to the blog owner that I linked to, but that before/after just looks like an ugly stone fireplace that's now clean.