One of the biggest challenges in designing a website is that you have to really understand how your website will be used. So there are two groups of users: those who are new to your site and those who visit the site regularly. A successful website needs to address both groups.
The key with choosing your style is to have it represent you and still be functional. The best example of an ugly website that works is Craigslist. It's brand is based on utility with no cost involved. So a bland website communicates that well.