You can use the background image, but maybe make it semi transparent so its more of a watermark, another big tip would be to use one colour for text and then stagger the hardness or darkness , depending on the importance of the text, i.e. Headings BLACK , subheadings DARK GREY , content text LIGHTER GREY , so the eye is drawn to the important parts first.
From DARK to LIGHT would be LOGO , ONLINE SHOP , NAV ITEMS, HEADINGS , SUBHEADING , TEXT. If you had a 50% sale you would put this in red or a really attention grabbing colour.
Obviously you can use a colour and have shades of it. Keep text columns the same width , so the readers eye can easily glance down , without having to make the eye look left and right which doesnt make easy reading. Basically lighten it up a bit , maybe remove the wood texture from the background and just have the fence pannel shapes. Remember , the eye needs to be guided around, try it , look around your page , nothing focuses you in, then look at a magazine ad and see how they use colour or tone to emphasise words of most importance.
Another thing for a proffesional look and feel is get some nice sharp vector art for it. check out my WIP http://www.rbcreations.co.uk/bartletts/wordpress/ its designed to be very clear, and to the point, the single colour artwork looks good but is very clear at the same time, no confusion as to where your going.
Its gives some visual weight without confusing the user as photograph or other gradient based images can if used too much. I think of a website as an information interface not a block buster movie. What do you want when you look at the internet, answer: information or an image of a particular type e.g. Darth Vader Poster , or TV guide but never do you want to see a load of unecessary background stuff and even cleaver animations arnt tollerated by most users if it means waiting or its gets anoying. I've spent years learning flash and 3d stuff , but who wants it, mainly TV and Film companies. What I am saying is, go to BBC or Adobe sites and look at those, theres no unecessary stuff on theres , why , because they know what there doing and have massive design budgets.
The main advice I would give anyone starting out
DESIGN YOUR CONTENT FIRST , KNOW WHATS GOING INTO THE SITE,
THEN MAKE IT FUNCTION CORRECTLY, LINKS , FORM ETC.
THEN LOOK AT STYLE AND THINK WHY IS IT NO GOOD, WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO MAKE IT BETTER.
THEN ONLY IMPLEMENT DESIGN THAT MAKES A PROBLEM YOU LOOKED AT GO AWAY, and then stop and go onto the next element in the page or site and carry on.
E.G.PROBLEM 1 "The title doesnt stand out clearly enough without styling on it"
SOLUTION 1 "Enlarge the text size and bold it".
LOOK AGAIN AT IT,, "now stands out but looks the same as the logo text"
solution "italise the text or give it a background colour"
LOOK AGAIN AT IT . now looks fine , leave it.
you could spend weeks trying different things out and end up with a 3d flash movie of the titd all thele , but you solved the problem 5 mins into the design.
What I suppose I'm saying is "you only have to build an easy to navigate , clear and easy to read website, NOT Avatar or Star wars. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
I hope this rant was usefull to you..
PS, SORRY ABOUT THE TERRIBLE USE OF CAPITAL LETTER HOW IRONIC !!!