If you have a stained wood piece of furniture or even stained wood panelling and you want to change the look and brighten the place up then you can paint over it.
No you don't have to use harsh stripping chemicals, you just need the right products. I have done this for a long time especially wall panelling and here is the best way to do it.
Give the wood a good wash with vinegar and water or your favourite cleaner because you want the oils and any grease or wax off the surface. But there is no need to strip anything.
Now get yourself a good high adhesion primer such as Zinsser. Make sure you protect the floor if you are doing panelling because this will stick to everything including glass which is what you want but not on your other surfaces!
Once you have put two coats of this on then you are ready for your main colour. That is it. High adhesion primer is the trick here. You can use this on painted surfaces to or varnished as well. Just clean off any grease or wax first. find out more here: http://www.infobarrel.com/Painting_Over_Stained_Wood_is_Easier_Than_You_Think