In the end, the decision was to paint the chair using a chalk paint. (I wouldn't recommend this if the chair is of unique or historical value, in which case, leave the original finish alone.) I had run across chalk paint made by Annie Sloane while visiting a vintage furniture store in Vineyard Haven on Martha's Vineyard last summer. I decided to try the chalk paint by Rustoleum, and selected "Aged Gray". The result (after 2 coats max) is a very matte finish that, when waxed and buffed, has a very low sheen, but feels smoother to the touch. I also decided to use a metallic decorative paint to paint the small rosettes carved on the ladders, top edges and front legs. It's best to use a variety of small brushes -- a small angled flat brush for the chalk paint and a smaller round brush for the decorative painting. For waxing, use a clean rag and gloves and only apply a thin coating of a clear wax. Let it dry and then buff gently with another soft, clean cloth (I used a clean discarded piece of fabric that used to be my husband's sweat shirt!). The chair is totally transformed now and makes me think: Gustavian Swedish!