Antique shop cabinets in a poor state - what to do?



Long-time lurker, first-time poster here! :D

We've just bought a shop which still has the original glass display units from the late 1800's when it was built. They are floor to ceiling with lovely curved ends, still have the original glass etc, similar to these ones. We believe they're solid mahogany, but they've been buried under years of stain/paint so you can't even see the grain any more. They were last painted about 30 years ago with a lovely 'teak' (aka orange!) painted wood grain effect that looks like nail varnish, so they look terrible. They line the whole shop so quotes to strip them back to their original state run into the tens of thousands, and unfortunately we just don't have that kind of money yet. So in the meantime we need to do something to improve the way they look. The only thing we can think of is to stain or paint them very dark brown/black to cover up the orange, but don't want that horrible thick gloopy paint effect. What would be the best thing to use? We're looking for the easiest option because the wood is carved and would be really fiddly to sand back (and of course it needs to be done quickly so we don't lose too much business while we're closed). It seems such a shame to cover them up with even more paint, but day-glo orange is not a good look!

There's also a long shop counter from the 70's which is painted in the orange grain effect and looks very retro (and not in a good way - it really clashes with the antique cabinets, even though they're all the same shade of tangerine!). It's a bit like this but with a solid top and front instead of glass. We can't afford to replace it just now and the wood is in quite poor condition, so just sanding it down isn't an option (and the legs would still show). We need some way to cover it up and make it look like a plain wood counter, without losing access to the drawers at the back. We were thinking about cladding the front/sides/top with plywood and then staining it - would this work, or would it look daft? The unfinished edge of the ply is the only problem I can forsee but if we do it properly it'd only be visible along the front edges of the top piece, so we could probably run some kind of moulding along it to cover it up.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I'm starting to wonder what we've taken on, but I'm sure the shop will look lovely one day, once everything has been restored. Ok I'll be dead by then, but never mind! :eek: ;)
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No quick fix that will look any better than they already are, use as is and renovate one at a time properly.

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