I firmly believe that form follows function. Above all, the product must solve the problem that faces it's users. If the right questions are asked early in the design process, the answers allow the product to design itself.
In a world of information overload, users need a product that provides clarity. Interfaces that are clean, simple, and intuitive reward the user with less friction which is key to allowing the user to accomplish valuable tasks and remain in the value loop. Distilling the interface to it's bare essentials is not only recommended, it should be the standard.
There is no such thing as a one-man UX team. For a product to truly achieve it's business and user objectives, a multi-disciplinary team is essential. Problems need examination and scrutinizing from every angle though many different lenses. Understanding design fundamentals, software development processes, and business objectives each provide a unique look at the same problem. Combining these perspectives is the only way to exhaustively create the best products.
Until a design has been tested in the real world, a product is running purely on assumptions. Constant building, testing, and iteration are what make the products people truly want. All products start with a seed of an idea, but until that's tested, there is no way of knowing what to do. Understanding the numbers, and designing from the data provides the opportunity to minimize the risk of product development. That is what it means to say a design flows from itself. If you listen carefully, a product will develop naturally.
Design patterns exist for good reason. If there is a standard way of doing something, there's a good chance that it works, and works well. Humans tend to behave in a similar way when doing routine tasks. Design patterns are the solutions that currently exists to establish a standard for these common behaviors. Don't break these patterns just to be different; it may just kill your product.
Every aspect of the design is a decision, and every decision must have a purpose. If an element on the page doesn't directly help the user solve the core problem, get rid of it. If you cannot answer "why" for every element on the page, it's time to rethink the design. If clarity and simplicity is the goal, There is no room for anything else. Everything must have a purpose.