A look I really love is a mix of bright white and natural dark timer. I love the warmth of the timber against the fresh white paint and think it's very practical as well as pretty. For me, it is very French Provincial style. I recently picked up a beautiful french style sideboard and knew this was the perfect piece for that two toned look.
I normally lug all my furniture home myself but this piece I relented and paid some one to bring it to me - trying to make life a bit easier on myself :)
The sideboard is solid walnut so it was heavy and well worth the haulage fee.
I gave it a very good clean and a light sand then used two coats of Zinsser primer to stop any tannin bleeding which is very likely on a piece like this. The primer also helps with coverage for a good opaque white finish. I also stripped and sanded off the old deep red varnish from the top. I just love seeing the beautiful natural timber emerge. Walnut is one if my very favourite timbers.
I painted the base in my current favourite white paint and applied dark wax to the top once I sanded it to a very, very smooth finish. If your timber is not smooth enough you will end up with a very patchy finish which looks pretty average especially viewed side on. It's worth taking the extra time to sand and sand - an extra hour of prep will result in a very beautiful finish.
I am currently in the process of negotiating on two more gorgeous sideboards so keep an eye on my page if you are interested.