Hi, Ed. As far as stains, this is about like asking me what color to paint your room. This is an individual decision and depends a lot on the other furniture and decor in the room. But you do have a lot of choices available. You can do everything from making yourown stain out of tobacco to analine dye stains that are available in all the colors of the rainbow from places like Woodcraft (www.woodcraft.com) to the wide variety of commercially prepared stains. One other suggestion, just to further muddle the question, is milk paint. See my comments about the Old Fashioned Milk Paint Company further up on the board.
In any case, you will want to sand down to 150 grit. If you use a water based stain, this will raise the grain (cause microscopic fuzzies to stand up instead of laying flat). No big deal, just lightly hand sand the fuzzies off when the water has dried and then tack rag. And I am sure that with some of these you will want to apply a couple of coats of shellac or varnish including polyurethanes.
One thing to watch is to change thinners from stain to finish,if possible. Don't apply an alcohol based shellac over an alcohol based analine based based dye, for instance.
Hope I didn't confuse you too much, but there are a lot of choices out there.