No, I'm not dreaming- the remodel has begun!
The exposed brick is half of a chimney that only ended up going partway into our attic. Instead of removing it, one of the previous occupants built a bizarre shelf around it. You can see the shelf in the first photo.
The haze would be dust. Don't worry- we're borrowing an air purifier.
It's not beautiful yet, but it's one whole room! We are now able to fit more than 3 people in our living room. With 6 siblings on hubby's side alone, space is not a luxury, it's a necessity.