Dust the piece of furniture and wash it with washing soda
(remember to follow the usual safety precautions: make sure the room is well-ventilated and wear gloves,
protective clothing and safety glasses). Sponge off excess washing soda after a few minutes to keep the wood from turning black.
The washing soda will remove any old wax finishes and some of the old paint.
Use a putty knife to gently scrape the surface of the furniture.
Immediately rinse the furniture with clean water. Let the wood dry at least overnight.
Fill in any holes in the wood with wood putty (you can make your filler by mixing wood glue with sawdust, or buy it).
Sand one more time with fine-grit sandpaper. To get an antiqued paint look, first scrub with a wire brush,
following the grain of the wood.
Nowadays, the quality of latex paint* is such that fastidious sanding is no longer necessary.
Use two coats of paint, following the paint manufacturer's instructions.
Sand briefly after the first coat so the paint will adhere better.
For an antique look, first apply a coat of umber colored wax, or tint your regular wax with a universal dark brown stain.
Finish with two coats of traditional wax, buffing well after each layer.
* If you can't use 100% non toxic, natural paint, get latex paint, which is the least harmful alternative.
Water-based paints and varnishes have formulations that contain fewer VOCs than oil-based finishes.
Here's an easy way to identify a water-based product: it can be cleaned up with soap and water.