Oxford Dictionaries Online defines [interior] decorator as follows:

1.1 chiefly North American A person whose job is to design the interior of someone’s home, by choosing colors, carpets, materials, and furnishings.

1.2 chiefly British A person whose job is to decorate the interior of buildings by painting the walls and hanging wallpaper: she became a painter and decorator (emphasis is mine.)

Other example sentences:

The police had been informed, together with the building contractor and the decorator, who came to view the damage we had caused.

There was a time when a decorator painted walls in small rooms white as a matter of course, believing that white would make a room appear larger.

Our builder tells us that it is all right to paper the newly plastered walls, but our decorator says that he is a traditionalist and would prefer to wait some time for possible cracking, due to drying after the heating is switched on.

Per Collins English Dictionary:

(Professions) Brit a person whose profession is the painting and wallpapering of buildings.

Per Cambridge Dictionaries Online:

UK a ​person whose ​job is to ​paint the inside or ​outside of ​buildings and to do other ​related ​work: a ​firm of ​painters and decorators

What would be the AmEng equivalent for BrEng decorator as defined by ODO?

I thought of painter and paperhanger and painter and [wall]paperer, but I would be better off with a single word, if there ever is one.


A worker who papers walls Donald was a painter and wallpaperer for the Painter's Union, Local 48 in Worcester for many years. (emphasis is mine.)

The Free Dictionary by Farlex


One whose occupation is covering or decorating walls with wallpaper; a paperer.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language


One whose occupation is decorating walls with wallpaper.

The Free Dictionary by Farlex

  • 2
    Interior designer. Sometimes interior decorator.
    – Jim
    Mar 20, 2016 at 22:08
  • 1
    @Jim Thanks, but "interior designer/decorator" is defined by AHD as a person whose profession is the planning and execution of the layout, decoration, and furnishing of an architectural interior, thefreedictionary.com/interior+decorator
    – Elian
    Mar 20, 2016 at 22:14
  • 3
    Well, I can only tell you how we actually use the term (my sister-in-law is an interior designer her college degree is in Interior Design) and she “designs the interior of someone’s home, by choosing colors, carpets, materials, and furnishings as well as “decorating the interior of buildings by painting the walls and hanging wallpaper.” I’ll tell her the dictionary says that’s not her job...
    – Jim
    Mar 20, 2016 at 22:19
  • 1
    @Jim Does your sister also paint the walls and hang the wallpaper of the building interiors that she decorates? ;-) Actually, I'm looking for the AmEng equivalent for what is called an interior decorator in the UK, i.e. someone whose profession is to decorate the interior of buildings by painting the walls and hanging wallpaper.
    – Elian
    Mar 20, 2016 at 22:27
  • 1
    Yes she does, but I will admit that once an interior designer has reached a certain level of renown in their profession they tend to hire underlings and subcontractors to do the painting and wallpapering for them
    – Jim
    Mar 20, 2016 at 22:27

2 Answers 2


There is no such word in U.S. English.

If you google "painting and wallpapering", you find a large number of U.S. businesses called "XXX painting and wallpapering". And that doesn't even count those decorators who call themselves "XXX wallpapering and painting", "XXX painters and wallpaper hangers" and other similar variants.

Painter and paper hanger has been a somewhat common phrase in the U.S. since around 1880, and is much less common in the U.K., presumably because they are decorators there.

  • It's possibly useful to point out that wallpaper has become an uncommon wall covering in the U.S., and that this has diminished the interest in finding a word that encompasses the business of actually hanging wallpaper. Mar 24, 2016 at 16:28

A person who applies wallpaper to walls for a living is called a painter.

The second definition of painter covers it:

a person whose work is covering surfaces, as walls, with paint

It would be widely assumed that any painter could also hang wallpaper.

  • I have also seen painters described (in the US) as "decorators", apparently depending on the lack of the "interior" qualification to differentiate them from "real" interior decorators.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 21, 2016 at 0:56
  • So, if you wanted somebody to paper your walls, you would ask your friends and colleagues if they knew of a good painter? That seems a bit counterintuitive. Mar 21, 2016 at 1:54
  • 1
    I don’t see how the second definition covers it. It says, “covering surfaces ... with paint
    – Jim
    Mar 21, 2016 at 3:23
  • 2
    To me, as a Brit, that is really weird. A painter paints but he doesn't do anything else, at least in vocational terms. Mar 21, 2016 at 10:07
  • 1
    It may not be so common now, but when I was a kid in the UK, people who painted walls and hung wallpaper advertised themselves in the Yellow Pages and on the side of their (white) vans as "Painter & Decorator". Mar 21, 2016 at 14:36

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