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I was under the impression that Google likes to have their adverts clearly separated out from content so that people don't accidentally click on the adverts thinking they are articles.

For a 'pinterest' style layout where you only see the one page and a few pop ups over that one page, you could mix in the adverts with the content, as demonstrated with the two adverts slap in the middle on this site:

enter image description here

Clearly this can be done and it exists in the wild, with Google adverts being supplied to the site.

However, is that against the spirit and/or the letter of what one signs up to with Adsense?

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This implementation appears quite similar to the 'Aligning images with ads' implementation described here.

Publishers may not attempt to associate specific images with the individual ads appearing on their sites. Such an implementation may confuse users who assume that the image is directly related to the advertiser's offerings and therefore is a violation of our program policies.

enter image description here

Also, as far as I know Adsense should be used only on pages having substantial content. The pinterest style page doesn't have any content It is just a collection of images and links.

So, using Adsense only on article pages and not the article listing pages is recommened.

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