Either way, you’ll want to use a Kreg Jig and pocket screws PLUS wood glue to give your bottom shelf strength. You really don’t see the centre seam whichever way you go.
This was my point of panic – remember that side table? The one where I stained and sanded it down 3 times to try and find the “right” finish and then it still ended up off after varnish was added? I didn’t want to go through that again, so I thought I’d test out a new product (for me) and go with a gel stain from Varathane in “Weathered Grey”. (You’ll use less than a pint)
I was still looking for that Restoration Hardware colour, but without having to stain and sand it off three times to get there – this seemed an easier route to go.
It did yellow somewhat after I used the triple thick varnish – but that just warmed up the colour slightly and overall I’m pretty pleased. (You’ll use about half a quart of varnish and that’s with two coats on the table top and shelf)