I had plain wooden table from Ikea that was in bad shape. It was in my art studio, and I had my computer there, I was using it as a painting table, and I was frequently snacking and drinking coffee there. The wood had split from moisture in places and it was all stained.
The first thing I did was sand it really well. Then I filled in some of the gaps where the wood had splintered with wood putty. Then I sanded again.
I gave it three coats of primer with Zinsser Bull's Eye Primer-Sealer Stain Killer 123, which is an excellent base coat for wooden furniture.
Then I was ready to start painting. Now, I could have just covered this up with a solid color. But I'm an artist and I had to get fancy. I painted a bright yellow background and then painted roses, leaves and stars on top with Golden brand acrylic paint. I like that brand because it's highly pigmented, goes on smooth and has great colors. It also dries very fast, so I could paint part of the table, wait for it to dry, then paint more. In fact, the only thing that held me back from finishing this table in a few days was procrastination.
After I finished the painted coat, I gave it two coats of water based urethane clear finish. The finish can be wiped clean with a rag or sponge. My dinner table is the same type of table painted with the same materials, though in different colors. We have been using it for almost three years now and the finish has held up well.
I wish I had taken before and after shots of it. For my next project of this type you can bet I will.
On edit: I added two photos of the first table I did.