The Dining Room Built-In: Trying to Make Decisions

The Finish Right From the Start

The last post I announced my intention for the next project here at 173, which turns out to be a built in fireplace/bookcase.  I have an idea of what I want...

Similar, but not quite...there won't be cabinets in the bottom, just book shelves.  The picture above is merely an inspiration shot that I culled from Retro-Tech Construction's website.  As I go through this planning process, I am already faced with perhaps the biggest decision of the whole project - what will the finish be?  One of the big selling-points here at 173 is that the woodwork has never been painted, and it's gorgeous!

So my initial idea is to finish the builtin so it matches the rest of the wood in the house.  I want it to look original to 173.  But there's a couple hurdles to that idea.  First off, I am FAR from a master carpenter, no matter the amount of planning, I always screw up at least a small piece of a project!  But in this case, the biggest problem is matching the stain.  Of course, to some small degree, I have been stressing about matching the stain color here at 173 since 1997!  This has become a bit of an obsession the last couple weeks, to the point this has happened...

And that's not the half of it!  Here's another shot:

I've tried so many combinations of pre-stain conditioner, multiple stains of different colors, amber shellac, polyurethane, oil-based wood-penetrating stains, gel stains, everything but steeped tea!  But I just can't match the wood color in the house.  However, that one on top - this one:

I'm liking that one.  It's General Finishes' Antique Walnut:

... and  I think I may be able to work with that one.  Restyle Junkie has a nice post about using this stain, and some advice I need to consider!  I was talking about this with a colleague at work, and she said something a bit's probably worse to try to get close and miss with matching a color than it is to simply choose a different color.  Sage advice, I'm trying to keep that in mind!
BUT.  I'm not 100% convinced I'm going to like that color on a larger scale than just a test board.  So, in the back of my mind is the very real possibility that the whole thing may end up painted.  I spent some time back in 2015 painting the dining room table, chairs and hutch, and I guess there's a real possibility the whole thing may be painted to match those pieces:

But that's all some time away up - prepwork!
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