Hey, Kim- I totally understand feeling "stuck" with existing furniture after you move into a new home. Truth be told, if it's high-quality stuff, you're lucky--they just don't make furniture today like they used to. :)
Check out this book--it will serve you well: http://www.amazon.com/Paint-About-Anything-Better-Gardens/dp/0696226936 How to Paint Just About Anything is a great guide for not only inspiration, but how to do it right. I cringe at the thought of a dresser I ruined before I knew better--practically no prep work and cheap-cheap paint ruined a beautiful piece. So if you want to transform that dark cherry furniture into something better suited to your cottage style, get ready to dedicate some serious time, but know that the elbow grease will be well worth it!