may i suggest to share a picture. the details of the wood, the carvings.. the finish -- will help everyone offer advice that is tailored to your question :-)
More info and pictures would help, but in general...clean up the wood, sand if you have shiny or laminate surfaces, depending on the condition of the wood, you may want to prime (although many of my shabby pieces I do NOT prime first). Use a good brush and latex paint in a creamy or antique white, not bright white (my preference). I personally find the end result more desireable if I use semi gloss or satin paint. I do not use flat paint even though many do for their shabby pieces, I don't like seeing every mark and finger print. And you can distress (to make it look shabby) semi gloss as well and as easily.
Sand your edges to give the distressed look, (the coarser your sand paper the less elbow grease needed) You can do as little or as much as you want. Sand in areas where your hands would normally touch the furniture to show the wear. Edges of drawers, top edges and corners. I would also go over (with the sand paper) any raised detailed areas slightly as this will make them stand out more.
Consider replacing the hardware, or if it's still unique and usable, you can spray paint it to give it a fresh look. I like to use silver or oil rubbed bronze for my hardware on my cream distressed pieces. If your hardware is brass looking you can also dry brush the hardware with your paint color which will tone down the color some but you will still have some of that color showing through. Dry brushing is done by putting a VERY little bit of paint on your brush at a time and kind of wisping gently over the surface, you are not trying to cover it completely, so use only a drop of paint at a time.
that's it in a nutshell. Good luck and post before and after pics! You will LOVE how much paint will transform your furniture and give it a much needed updated look and feel.
Thank you so much for the advise. I will take the pictures and post. Definitely want to replace the hardware with a pewter type finish. Any suggestions on where to get the best buy for that? There is a LOT of handles and a few pulls to replace.
Will do asap! Thank you!!
Hardware can be found for decent prices on ebay if you are patient, also local places like Hobby Lobby I have found the best selection. Of course, Lowe's and Home Depot sell hardware too, but it wont be cheap unless you get lucky and find something on clearance or a style you can live with in a bulk packuy...SO, unless your existing hardware is really horrible, I'd consider buying a pewter spray paint and at least try it first. You might be surprised at how it will look VERY different that what it does now. you have to measure the space between the screw holes to make sure you are getting the right sized pulls (not all draw pulls are created equal)