When Google launched SearchWiki two years ago, the new icons seemed distracting and I even wrote a script that removed them.
After a while, I disabled the script and I used the new interface for a week or two. SearchWiki icons no longer seemed distracting and I started to ignore them. After clicking on the new icons a few times, I realized that SearchWiki's features were quite convenient and I liked promoting results, adding short annotations or removing irrelevant results. Google added an option to disable SearchWiki 6 months after the launch, but I no longer wanted to disable it. If Google added that option on the launch day, I would've disable it and never looked back.
If the new Google interface seems distracting, try to use it for a week and you'll realize that the sidebar doesn't get in your way. Focus on the list of search results and look at the sidebar only when you want to refine the results. Before jumping to conclusions, try the interface with an open mind and you'll learn to like it.