Before you report me to the Antiques Road Show please know that in some (many) instances - I do not care about the original patina, provenance or even value of an antique. Really. And that's coming from a gay man. Shocking. Sometimes in order to make something work in a space (like this beautiful table from a distant relative), it needs a tweak.
I prefer to clean and prepare a surface with liquid sandpaper or TSP because I like the texture of the original finish and don't want to lose the crispness of the carved details by sanding. Plus sanding is a drag. Krylon has an amazing spray tip on their paints that approximates a spray gun. The result is similar to a lacquer finish - no brush strokes. Please wear a respirator when using chemicals/spray paints (even outdoors).