I think everyone has an old workhorse piece of furniture that they love. A well made table, a sturdy dresser, and they work well, they're just dated and worn. Here's a great way to give the tops a face lift and get a great texture too. Create a neat herringbone pattern using painters tape, a rubber graining comb, two colors of latex paint (oops paint works well and use eggshell or satin instead of flat for an easier time) and a clear acrylic glaze.
Start by sanding the top. I filled holes with wood putty so my pattern would be smooth. I primed the table and also used a base coat so I could see the color I wanted through the glaze. Once the base coat was dry, I found the center of the table and using painters tape, made equal stripes across the top. Lay the tape side by side then peel every other row off so you get perfect spacing. You can use 2" or 3" tape widths depending on the size of your top and how wide you want the stripe. Press the tape down firmly to seal the edges so you don't get bleed.
The glaze is whatever color latex paint you like mixed in equal parts with a clear acrylic glaze. I had Benjamin Moore on hand so that's what I used. Roll on your glaze in the same direction as the tape. Using a rubber comb (Amazon.com), pull it across the glaze at a 45 degree angle to the tape. I go all the way across the top to make the lines even, but if you make an error, re-roll and pull again. I remove tape when the glaze is still tacky. When the first pull is dry, tape over the stripes you made and roll on more glaze. This time, pull the comb at the opposite 45 degree angle to create the herringbone pattern. Since the glaze is pretty durable, you may not need a protective coat of urethane. I use satin spray by Minwax for tabletops that get used often.