It is quite common in NZ, and although I haven't seen any here, I am sure it is around.
The handles were all intact, and I quite like them. I think they suit the style of the furniture, so I left them as is.
I was going to paint the furniture off white, but then when I went to buy some paint (I had to leave my extensive paint collection in NZ as the removalists wouldn't ship it), I found a gorgeous baby blue mistint and had to try it out. I am glad I did, here is the end result...
Over the paintwork I used a clear beeswax, then a dark oak wax sparingly in places to give it a bit of an aged look. Doing the clear wax first helps to limit the dark wax 'grabbing' the paintwork too heavily, and makes it much easier to remove if you apply too much. Trust me. I have learnt that from experience :)
This set has been sold.