I live in a two hundred year old home. The wood work is a dark brown. I would like to paint the ceiling a cream color and the walls a light chocolate brown. Would this enhance the wood work or take away from it?
The lighter the wall color the more your woodwork will show or be enhanced. A light chocolate color could hide your dark brown woodwork a bit, but this could be a good combination. The natural lighting in the room will change the wall color throughout the day producing a perceived lighter wall color than in the evening.
Try applying samples of your wall paint next to the base trim as well as a door or window frame. Make the samples 2 feet wide and 2-3 feet long. This will help you visualize the room with this paint color.
Look at the samples and try to imagine what the room will look like. The best times to look at the paint samples is when you would normally be in the room.
Choose a slightly lighter wall color if you feel that the dark trim disappears to much and start the process all over again.
I also live in a very old home with dark oak wood floors and think that warm, soft colors work really well with the flooring (and agree that a cream color ceiling will look unbelievably lovely – much less stark/harsh than an ivory white, but still allowing for the ceiling and rooms to open up). While I love chocolate brown, I would caution against it depending on the hue of the brown floor or woodwork. The darkness of the chocolate brown combined with the dark flooring would take away from the richness of the color of the floor, deadening the vibrancy of each, as there would be little color distinction between the two gradients of color. I would suggest a honey/mustard/ochre brown, which is much lighter than a chocolate brown which will bathe the room in a warm glow without being too bright or dramatic of a color, and also allowing the rich tones of the woodwork to really shine and become the star of the show. I live in an old 1830s farmhouse and find this color combination to be very soothing and comforting, while also looking very classic and timeless. I think a light sage would also look very nice, if you would prefer something that is also a neutral, earthy tone, but would like to stay away from a yellow.