Sorry, Valerie, there is no magic change that is not worse than the problem. Anything in the paint category will be irreversible without major cost. At the same time, it will be a constant cleaning problem and actually could cause faster degradation to that area of your house.
There are some things that you can consider. With todays "Arts & Crafts" look being popular, making the natural look of the fireplace the real focal point of the room is a possibility. An A&C designed shelf and bookcase unit is one way to accomplish this. If you want either a more colonial or modern look, this might be done with just a mantle.
No matter what you do, be sure that you comply with current building codes. If you make a modification that infringes on the code and you later have a fire, your insurance may not cover you.