This is one of the most popular home design trend, especially for family with young kids. And it is normal since it allows the cook(s) to be with everyone. I gathered on Living etc. successful open plan living rooms.
Living etc. is a great source of inspirations. And they acknowledged it by providing their online users to browse through their vast photo galleries.
A split level by a few steps adds elegance and interest to the open living design (top picture). This is the best view. And when you sit down in the living room for the digestive, your guests can sit down and not see the kitchen mess. I like it because they would not insist on doing the dishes.
There are many more ways to diminish the cluttered view of the kitchen when you have guests over. Here, homeowners used fringe walls and sliding doors.
Do not forget the classic large opening between two rooms that is so typical in old Victorian style houses. By removing the historic doors, you create a open sense of intimacy.