So it looks like Windows 8.1 allows custom backgrounds - now they should allow the tiles to be...

Transparent.

Part of the ugly nature of the start screen is the jarring visual style of all those tiles covering up the beautiful backgrounds I choose. It would be nice to have a sort of transparency setting where you could adjust the see through levels of the tiles so more of the background could be seen without those tiles breaking it up.

You have to understand guys, the backgrounds I choose are so unbelievably stunning that there is nothing that could possibly look better than the background itself. Many people have really bad taste and use tacky looking backgrounds, so blocking it with jarring tiles is not a big deal, but for me, it's like covering a masterpiece with multicolored windows. Transparent windows might solve the issue.

Now that would not be as usable, but you could make it so that moving the mouse over the tiles or touching the start screen removed the transparency. I am not sure how this could work best, but there is a parallel with having the taskbar in windows hidden unless you move the mouse down there, giving more workspace and not having that ugly bar in the way.