Reader Danny (AKA Awake98 on the forums) points me to an A List Apart article on the holy grail of web design
Three columns. One fixed-width sidebar for your navigation, another for, say, your Google Ads or your Flickr photos—and, as in a fancy truffle, a liquid center for the real substance. Its wide applicability in this golden age of blogging, along with its considerable difficulty, is what has earned the layout the title of Holy Grail.with, as the writer doesn't even feel the need to spell out, lean, standards-compliant layout.
I have too much on my plate right now to fiddle with my website design, but when I do have time to fiddle, I'll want to experiment with this.