A little bit of experimenting on the back of a door before you go all the way with any treatments. Spray paints will provide the smoothest uniform finish possible. Solvent lacquers are very quick drying, but water-borne acrylics can be used effectively. You could experiment with a semi-transparent wash coating that would lighten the color and leave some of the veneer "grain" pattern still showing. You would need to use a clear urethane over the white wash.
If you decide on solid paints, this is a great time to incorporate an air compressor into the budget so you can economically spray-paint the cabinets and shelves. (about the cost of one cabinet) Be sure you get a compressor that can meet air requirements as shown on the paint sprayers. This will be useful for a large number of future projects (pneumatic nailers, shop tools, etc).