I picked up this unusual chair during one of my treasure hunts. It was in an "as is" section due to a large split in the top of the frame. Otherwise, the wood was in good condition and it was an incredibly comfortable chair. I was drawn to its unique character, the mix of ornately carved arms paired with the more primitive style of the body and legs, probably a chair from the late 19th or early 20th century. What I wasn't so fond of was the color. Oak just isn't quite my thing. But I did love the grain of the wood and I wanted to preserve that.
After mulling over a number of options, I opted for a pickling stain. I wiped it on in its original state, right out of the can, and immediately decided it wasn't right. Too ashy and pale for this particular chair. What I thought it really needed was a much darker stain, but one that would keep the grain.
I brought the pickling stain back to the paint store with a paint swatch, a seal gray, and asked for it to be tinted. The container kept coming back to me, the kind gentleman telling me he didn't think he could match it. But then he'd change his mind and try again (I love those kinds of people!). Finally, it came back to me almost perfectly matching the swatch. The finish was tackier than the original pickling stain and it took longer to cure (several weeks before it wasn't tacky at all), but it was exactly the look I was going for. Also, it covered the wood filler I'd used to patch the crack, which I'd been a little worried about. The resulting finish allows the grain to show through beautifully and it didn't need to be sealed at all, which was an added bonus.
In the end, I was glad I took the risk. But I wouldn't advise trying this on a pricey piece of furniture, as results can vary from piece to piece (this was the professional advice I was given). If you want to do something like this with an expensive antique, I'd give it to a professional.