I could not agree with you more. I have not a single negative thing to say about SteemPeak ... except I haven't been using it for the very reasons you stated. I dread having to learn the interface but I will because Luke is right about this.
Minimalism is the very goal we strived for with the Steemhouse Literary Journal site as well. I kept saying over and over and over: "Just the stories. Nothing in the sidebars. Nothing flashing. Nothing to distract." We finally got it live to my satisfaction, but I had to fight tooth and nail to keep the design clean. Everybody likes bells and whistles, it seems, except for me, and you, I suppose.