So...as mentioned before, I'm finally getting a dining room table big enough for the groups we gather several times a year--instead of having the mix of tables (no two the same width, height or length) shoved end to end. No more guests will have to straddle a leg (or two) when the new one arrives. But picking the stain was the final stage of the order. From the online examples I'd thought two colors in particular were strong possibilities, Asbury Brown and Nutmeg. Nutmeg's lighter than Asbury Brown. But--was my old computer monitor rendering the colors accurately? (Does anyone's?)
I asked for color samples; they came today. In our kitchen, I suddenly saw four possibilities: the first two plus Chocolate Spice and Old World Mission. On the phone last week, the saleslady said Chocolate Spice was "cooler" toned than Nutmeg.
I gradually came back to my first two choices and was dithering, but then it occurred to me that this table won't be in our kitchen, but in the other house's back room. That room has a lot of natural light, and aside from that is paneled in rough yellow pine beadboard (not varnished) and the doors on the built-in buffet thing at the far end are the same, almost bright-yellowish wood, and so is the door to the storage room. The floor is a mottled brown/beige carpet.
I took the samples to the other house, and looked at them directly against, and near, the paneling and the cabinet doors, both with and without the artificial light. It was immediately obvious what the best color was--no doubt at all that Nutmeg won. Chocolate Spice was indeed a warm/cool clash with the walls; Asbury Brown suddenly looked harshly dark, not just a rich dark brown, against the lighter yellowish walls and doors, and Old World Mission was too red and argued with both the carpet and the walls. Nutmeg fit into the room as a good accent brown and didn't fight with anything.
Now to call and confirm my finish color choice. (Now why didn't I take those samples over there FIRST? Because I was eating lunch and couldn't wait to see them!)
Relevant: our kitchen has aqua-turquoise counters (not my choice), white appliances, vinyl flooring that mixes white, pale gray, a little darker gray and a soft blue-gray, one pale gray wall, and cabinets of natural wood (old) in a warm honey-syrup sort of color. The cool does not clash because the warm cabinets are not aggressively yellow. The lighting is one north window over the sink and CFLs and LEDs in that are cool-toned. At the far end of the room, the old cool-toned fake-wood paneling is medium dark with rosy undertones; the carpet is gray Berber with little bits of other color (just enough not to be flat gray.) So the stain samples that looked good here were in a completely different color environment than the room where the table will go, which has so much aggressively yellow pine, a darkish floor covering, and lots of windows that bring in direct sun.
Always check your color samples in the place where they will be used. I knew that; I just wanted to open the package.