Here, at very long last, are the before and after (so far) pictures of our dining room furniture. We have yet to sand and stain the tops of the table, buffet and bench. Our hope is that they will closely match the color of the floor.
I apologize that these photos are taken at different times of day, hence different lighting - not to mention the rush in which I took them and posted them which accounts for any blurriness.
We purchased the table, bench, buffet and chairs from Ikea. I'll share the links so you can see more professional "before" images of what we were working with. We liked that all these are solid wood (birch, except the chairs which are pine) and very affordable considering the quantities we were purchasing.
All these pieces had an acrylic finish and didn't need any further finishing. Had we been going for a different look, they would've been lovely as-is. However, we had a vision for a different look for our dining room, so I set about sanding and painting everything.
The bookcase and hutch were purchased off craigslist. The bookcase is laminated particle board, the hutch is oak.
I hope you enjoyed that glimpse of what we've been up to. Clearly there's still a lot to do in the room - obviously the tops, but also the ceiling fixture and the walls. So, look for more before/after posts in what I hope is not the distant future!