Based on the advice of my friend Phil, I turned this room into a great room extension of the kitchen. While it looks very different from when I bought the house (much wider opening vs. standard doorway, entire pantry demolished, walls all one color, drywall and cheap closet removed), it has remained far from finished for a year:
While much remains to do, including painting the walls, it's a little better now!
Staging of great room, kitchen still needs work:
Late April update: Walls finally painted: