I build stone buildings and link them underground with paths.
As the newer versions come out, I fall further and further behind in a sense, because the chunks that I have used were generated in version 1.6. All I need to keep working is stone, and as I destroy my buildings I recycle it, leading to very little time spent "resource gathering" or "grinding". This means a lot of the blocks that have been added to the game are either absent or scarce on my map.
In the beginning, there was no granite, andesite, or diorite in the ground. Kelp does not cover the sea floor until you venture a distance by boat, if you get lost just return to the barren ocean. If you want to take a look at what things looked like before I started, use the seed below in a 1.6 instance, although there was also some world-gen errors that produced the "splinter" island and matching canal west of the ice biome.
I use a connected textures mod to make the glass more transparent, and I highly recommend you do the same, as well as use whatever shaders your system will allow.
Chocapic13 is the best for integrated GPU's and BSL is my favorite,
but they all have their own advantages and disadvantages. I've used the Complementary and Complementary Reimagined shader packs a lot recently.
There are lots of optimizations available within these packs, one can make the whole map covered in frost and another reveals the blocks that mobs can spawn on while you hold a spider eye, which is quite useful. The zoom function from Optifine is essential for me, as a photographer I struggle for the few weeks after an update not being able to crop screenshots. I use the zoom and the FOV setting interchangeably to get my images.
I most often use a slightly customized version of the Paper-Cut Out resource pack. I've simply smashed a few texture packs together, and I highly recommend doing the same as you find individual textures that fit your style. There is an old Jicklus Orange resource pack which brings fall colors into the game, and I recommend tinkering and trying those on your own maps as well as mine. You will probably need Optifine, Fabric, and Fabric API in addition to the packs themselves, others have explained their software better than I could. There are a few options but I don't use Curseforge directly yet.
In the interest of full disclosure, I also use cheats on occasion. I try to stay true to vanilla survival, but I will /give myself glowstone, elytra, turtle hats and rockets as well as change the time and spawn in the mobs that won't generate nearby.
Much of what I build is quickly rearranged or destroyed and I often will wander and get distracted. I find that servers are eclectic and people don't want to destroy each other's buildings, which leads to a lack of cohesion in the architecture. I very much enjoy being able toggle to Peaceful mode. There is no wrong way to play this game, and the rules I've made for myself are too many to list here, but I will eventually make a video explaining why I do certain things, and why I silently rage to myself when I see people doing other things. Feel free to message me or send a link to your maps and I'll be sure to drop in and give you some feedback. I have not created a server with it, but feel free to do so and expand in whatever way you wish, just please give me credit for the work done before you got started.
The general layout of the island is 50/50 forest and jungle, with the majority of my work being done on the south half of the island. If you take a boat around the whole thing, you will see almost all of the above ground builds and offshore/underwater buildings, but there are villages both to the north and south. There is a large amount of work underground in this area, and a structure floating in the sea to the south of my main storage "starter house". Almost all of my items are in the chests on the southeast shore of the island in that house, and if you go to my Youtube or Twitch (AbraCatDadBra) you should get a decent idea of how to get around.
I think having a slab that blends is important, I would only build with blocks that have slab variations. I also don't roam far in order to keep working where I started, so getting to new biomes is quite a haul.