If you're used to Gnome/KDE, I think XFCE4 would be a better fit for you, OpenBox and even LXCE can be a bit too barebone. For me, using LXCE/OpenBox feels like going back to Windows 3.1 at times.
And I don't even think you need to use runlevel 3. If you just want the server always boot to text console login, and start a GUI as needed only after you logged in at console, just run "startxfce4" at the console anytime. Disable GDM/LightDM/etc form starting up at boot altogether.
If you're logging from another computer on the LAN, I recommend using tightVNC on top of this. You can SSH into the server, run "tightvncserver", then connect from your desktop using a tightvnc client and you should get a full remote desktop GUI. It's quite a lot faster than other VNC implementations. This way you can connect to the server remotely and run a GUI as needed, without running GDM/LightDM at boot at all.
Just for a backgrounder: GDM/LightDM/KDM/etc are "Desktop Managers". The name can be misleading as all they do is provide you the graphical login, which means an X server will be loaded at boot-time even though the full Gnome/XFCE environment is not, and will consume considerable amount of RAM. GDM/LightDM/etc are separate components, not necessarily part of Gnome/KDE/XFCE/etc, you can disable them completely or even uninstall them without affecting the GUI environment, you just lose the graphical login.
For some basics of how to install and run XFCE on Debian, see http://wiki.debian.org/Xfce