Here is the finished project - not sure I love how bright the brass knobs are, but otherwise I am pretty pleased. It actually didn't take that long either. The photos don't quite show the grey colour (it is "seal" in the Martha Stewart collection) or how dark the stain is.
rast redo - I got to go to Home Depot to get all my supplies AND actual finish the project! Amazing.
Here it is in its new home. I had intended to put it in our bedroom, but as soon as I brought it into the hall from the car the day I bought it, it immediately got filled with all kinds of stuff! And now that we have all the hats and mits and scarves to deal with, it just made sense. And it looks great there! It is nice and narrow, which we really needed, and the stain actually matches our gumwood trim pretty perfectly. I may even get another to put beside it to make a kind of built-in. Hooray Rast hacks!