Here are a couple of screenshots from my home computer; they show my personal desktop configuration. I don't run a desktop environment, since I don't need most of the things they provide. My window manager is FVWM2, which is very lightweight, standards compliant, and extremely configurable. FVWM configuration is not for the faint of heart, since it requires creating and editing a text file, but that same early learning curve also makes the infinite personalization possible.
In each screenshot, you'll see what's called a “pager” in the top left. My computer desktop actually is four times as big as the resolution my monitor can show, so it's broken into four different “pages” and I see one at a time. The pager shows me what's open on each page, highlighting the active page and active window so that they appear darker than the others. For reference, the screenshot on the left shows the top-left page of my desktop, and the other screenshot shows the bottom-left page.
The bottom left of each screenshot shows an application called conky that overlays system information onto the desktop background. Mine shows the computer name, time, date, weather at the nearest weather station, the number of unread emails in my inbox, the title and artist of whatever song my computer is playing, and lots of other stuff. Between conky and the pager, you'll see what look like really tiny windows… and they are. Instead of a “taskbar” or “window list,” I have FVWM set up to take a quick screenshot of a window when I minimize it, and then show that screenshot, much smaller, in that area of the screen.
To run applications, you can click anywhere on the desktop and it brings up a menu of my favorite apps (show in screenshot on right); right-clicking gets you a fuller menu. The window decorations are colored based on the background, and only the active window has buttons on its titlebar. The titlebar buttons function basically the same as those in Windows.
If you're interested in my fvwm config file, it's here (for 1920x1200 resolution) or here (1280x800 or 1280x1024). The accompanying conky config file is here (desktops) or here (laptops). Some of the functions in my fvwm and conky config files require other scripts that you can find around the internet; if you're interested in them, leave a comment and I'll get in touch.