The beginning of the open space concept may have begun with a pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room. The pass-through may have been revolutionary in its day, but it is a bit too closed in for today's living.
One of the first things most people have to decide when considering the removal of an upper wall, is the cabinetry on that wall and where to store what is in those cabinets. The same is true when considering removal of floating cabinets over an island or peninsula. It may be wise to open the cabinets, evaluate what is stored in them and determine where else the items can be stored. You may even find a lot of things you considered "lost" because they were unseen and not easily accessible. The things you still need and use, albeit less frequently, can be stored in other cabinets. This exercise forces you to really access the items need to be in your home; so making careful choices is important.
If you happen to have such a pass-through and wonder how to modernize it or truly open the space, there are few things you need to consider. First, you will want your kitchen to be attractive and uncluttered enough to be on constant display. You will want your cabinetry to coordinate with the rooms to which it is open, i.e. family room, dining room.
If your cabinets are old, outdated or shabby, painting will be the easiest fix. You can consider removing some of the door fronts and keeping some open cabinetry on upper cabinets for some of your pretty or frequently used utensils. The most important thing to keep in mind with open shelves, is the view you will present to the rest of the room.
Another consideration is the lighting that will be visible from the living spaces into the kitchen area. A new, attractive light fixture might be a nice accent to add to the kitchen. Color will be another consideration; you will want the two or three combined spaces to be cohesive. The rooms need not be the same color, but they should coordinate; consider a bolder value of the same color from room to room or a graduated value of color among the three rooms. Color too will give an open concept a subtle room division.
The pass-through kitchen will require some amount of DIY skill, or you can hire a contractor. You will need to determine if the wall separating the kitchen and other rooms is load-bearing before you swing the sledge hammer. There may be electrical wires or plumbing pipes in the walls, so go slowly and check in the attic or have someone who is skilled in construction help you determine these issues. Oftentimes, a post or pillar will be necessary to hold up the end of a load-bearing wall.
When you have cabinets on the kitchen side of the pass through wall, you will want the cabinets to remain for storage, so a half wall will be your division between the rooms, still giving you a visual open space. A half wall may give you an opportunity to have a console on the living room side of the half wall, to be used for games or if it is a dining space, a buffet server for parties.
Removing the entire wall between the kitchen and adjoining room may be more ambitious than the average DIYer can manage, and there are more things to consider. For instance, you will have flooring issues to deal with, as the removal of a wall will leave a two-by-four or two-by-six space where the wall once was. Leaving a partial wall would not necessarily require new flooring or patching. The ceilings in both renovations will need to be addressed, but dry wall is more easily applied than flooring with the necessary matching.
Removing cabinets above an island and peninsula can be among the most liberating and enjoyable renovations one can undertake.