Can you tell the difference between a Honda and a Lexus? Can you tell the difference between a fine microbew and a Bud Light? Can you tell the difference between a VCR and a BluRay? Can you tell the difference between the fast food and fine dining? You don't have to be an expert to appreciate the quality of the fit and finish of the better tools....easier setup, simpler adjustments, smoother operation....just that feeling of a quality thing.
Thanks all for your input and ideas! My thinking so far is to first make the outer frame. I do want it curved on both sides. Once the frame is made I can make it a bit oversized and then route a rabbet on the inside (will require some chisel work obviously on the corners). I would then make the inside panel from my veneered up panel. This brings to mind the question of how do I make the frame with curved sides and yet nice even mitres? I can see once the frame is made that I can trace it onto MDF and then make a template for the veneered panel. I agree that the inlay helps cover any irregularities in the cuts. I'm at work ATM but later I'll try googling to see if I can find a mirror project that has curved sides as this would essentially be what I'm going for with the frame.
One thing to keep in mind is that the inside of the apron does not need to be curved. I would build it as a square table with mortise and tenons and extra material on the outside of the aprons, then cut the curves after the joinery has been completed. As far as the curves, you can do it with anything from a jigsaw to a band saw to a set of templates. My personal preference would be a template and router. However, because you can't see both sides at once it is probably not that important to have a "perfect match"
MDF is what I use for all of my templates. Cut it with a bandsaw then sand/file it down the line. MDF is good because you can shape it very quickly