I am in the middle of redoing my kitchen. I used a belt sander on the cabinets with a course grit then went over them again with a fine grit paper. I did not restain them because I have one window also and wanted a lighter kitchen. I used a high gloss polyurethane and had my husband glass bead the hardware and bought a can of gold spray paint. This has done wonders for lightening up my kitchen. It also saved me over $200 on the hardware. I also have birch cabinets.