Above is the before picture. Below is the current state. The after picture will follow in the not too distant future.
Going to be no mantle, smaller alcove, dropping the TV down a bit (it’s higher than it looks in the pics), keeping the upper molding, removed the lower molding. We went with a white porcelain tile made to look like white marble with grey veining, that will be laid in a herringbone pattern (floor to ceiling, front and sides). Similar to below pic, but so far all the tiles we’ve pulled out and looked at are mostly white with subtle veining, haven’t found any that read grey like in the pic. We’ll see once we get them all out and up though.
We’d love to make the damn thing much tighter to the wall, but it’s not really possible with the insert we have. At least just removing the builder’s special mantle already has made it feel like there’s so much more room.