When we bought our house last May, I was in love with the blond wood in the kitchen. I quickly found out that the cabinets are actually oak, and any varnish/stain/finish they had on them wore off years, if not decades, ago.

I am not particularly fond of traditional oak color, which is what we get if we put on a clear stain. My husband doesn't want anything that looks like "the paint is worn off," meaning there will be no pickling or whitewashing of the cabinets.

The ceiling, surprisingly, is also wood, so we will not be painting the cabinets (which go all the way up to the ceiling).

What I'm looking for is some advice on the quality of various stains that are out there. We obviously want something durable and long-lasting, and don't want to cut corners. My husband won't let us use Minwax polyblends, and thinks that the water-based stains that are tinted won't hold up as well as the standard pre-mixed ones.

I'm wondering if there is any validity to that. We live near a Home Depot (several, actually), so Minwax is easy to get. However, there is a Lowe's in the area, and last time we were there I picked up a Cabot brochure. They have some lovely tinted stains, but again, I'm concerned about quality.

Keeping in mind that we're fairly inexperienced (but have a wealth of information at our disposal via friends and family who have done furniture refinishing), what recommendations can you make for stain for kitchen cabinets?