I think you were all right - painting the dresser would be a shame. So I've taken your advice and I've left it with the woodgrain showing. Today I began the intricate and time-consuming task of sanding the dark stain out of all the decorative grooves and the door panels. I'm considering investing in a little hobby sander - I've just about removed all my fingerprints trying to get into the tiny corners! (Hmmm. Maybe a bank job could be on the cards now.) At any rate, there is still a fair bit of work needed to chase away all traces of that dark woodstain and finish the beeswaxing. But it can wait.
I also made a decision to put the dresser in the living room; our flooring, bookcases and side tables are oak veneered, so the dresser complements them very nicely. Also, it is ever-so-slightly too wide for the kitchen space in which I intended it to live. I am undecided on what to do with the top half of the dresser. It was intended to display plates, and so only has very shallow shelves. For now it is safe and dry in our coal shed.
I am in love.