Okay, so we've roughed up this banister and stair rail a time or two, trying to get to the look we are going for.
Eventually we dropped it, since we knew we were a long ways from getting the iron balusters we had in mind.
Fast forward two years--the balusters are HERE in our garage, waiting for their new life along our stairs. So...we had to get movin' and thankfully all the time of waiting to buy supplies helped us solidify in our minds the color and finish we were going for.
We went with a gel stain (color: dark walnut) and the finish looks great. My goal today is drag myself out into the world (I'm having a lot of anxiety lately) and purchase the spray lacquer and prepare the areas with drop cloths for when my man comes home to finish his wood finish :).
***Hint for later--the stain color corresponds gorgeously with the tile we ordered. That I cannot wait to show you!