I always loved the idea of splitting living spaces and centering them around a central area. I mean, how often is it that you actually go out to the back patio and just enjoy the outdoor space? Or look out at the back? Having a central patio or courtyard and all rooms facing/connecting to it always seemed to be a better idea: You can leave windows open at night because it is facing inside, you can have a beautiful view from all rooms, not just one or two and you have the privacy to do as you please without worrying if the neighbors are watching!
This idea is primarily seen in Arabic or Indian homes where the weather permits such outdoor living year round; obviously, if you live in a cold climate or with rain/snow, this might not be an option. But why not enclose the open roof with glass or stained glass for a different look and enjoy the constant flood of natural light?
The blog houseidea has an interesting rendering photo of a small dipping pool separating the kitchen from the living room. I like the idea in that you keep the smell of the kitchen away from the rest of the house, but not sure how well it would work, considering the kitchen is becoming the new “family room”these days. Also, I don’t see how you would cross the pool, as there seems to be no real walk space. But it is just inspiration!