The hearth used to be a symbol of ones home which provided a space for a collective congregation of people for practical reasons. However, now a days, with central heating, the practicality of its use has changed. It has now become more form then function.
However, I firmly believe that a fireplace does not need to be functional to bring warmth and design interest into a space. I personally like faux mantles that bring texture, art, and visual interest into a room. Its structure offers many display opportunities for pieces that bring one joy.
You can still bring intimacy to its purpose through art, making it yet another informal place in your home to just be. -tM