Redesigning your fireplace wall can be one of the most transformational and cost effective methods of updating your home. Instead of just using tile or stone as a narrow border around the firebox, consider doing the entire wall. You can completely change the character of the space by the materials you choose, since this, most likely is the only infrastructure element in the room. If you have a raised hearth you can use a coordinating material, on perhaps, just the top and have the hearth facing and vertical fireplace wall in the same material.
The look can be traditional, classic or contemporary. It can be bold or subtle, but with such a vast array of materials available, it can be personalized and the net effect will make a dramatic difference. It is one of the most inexpensive methods of updating a home and should be at the top of the list, not only for those remodeling, but also for those updating before putting a home on the market.