Have you tried chalk paint? I have wanted to for years, but I've been too afraid. However, after reading a ton about it, I bit the bullet, and I couldn't be happier!
The advantage to chalk paint is that you don't have to sand or prime a piece before painting. You just go to it. I had a dining table that I had picked up for free, so that seemed like a great place to start. It had a thick, shiny finish, but good bones.
I'll give you a series of posts next on the painting process. What I also like is that you can stop with the look that you have in mind. I did two coats of chalk paint (Valspar Woolen Stockings). Then I highlighted with some leftover white and green paint. After that, I used the Valspar antiquing wax to give it a driftwood color. It's suggested that you seal it with Valspar sealing wax. Since this is high traffic and might get scratched, I'm going to polyurethane the top to protect all my hard work.