I should start by saying that I really liked the original fireplace and built-in units. However, they had to go. The weight of the fireplace was putting too much stress on the foundation. So, in order to fix the foundation, and fix it correctly, the entire structure needed to be removed. (Along with the master bath, which was another major weak spot in the foundation and has now been gutted completely.)
The fireplace was not functional, and hadn't been for a long time. It had been completely bricked in. We will eventually be rebuilding it into a working gas fireplace. After weighing the benefits of gas versus wood burning, we think gas will be cleaner, easier, and therefore used much more often. We will save the wood burning for an outdoor fire pit.
Who took out the fireplace, you ask? Nabil. Bricks, marble, thick concrete slabs and all. Not an easy task. Not your average man.
He will also be building new built-ins that will flank the fireplace. We haven't talked in depth about the design, but you'll see the final product at some point.