Sectional Sofa Guide: How to Choose a Sectional

by Jane K on June 5, 2020

Chaise Sectional in a Living Room

Considering buying a sectional? This sectional sofa guide covers everything you need to know about how to choose a sectional for your living room.

What is a Sectional Sofa?

Sectional couches or sofas are sofas that are composed of two or more pieces that come together to form a single unit. Most sectional sofas range from 2 pieces to as many as 6 pieces, and they can either be fixed, meaning they fit together in only one configuration, or modular, which means they can be combined together in a number of different ways. Generally speaking, the more pieces, the more expensive the sectional will be, though reclining features and certain upholsteries can also increase the price.

Left Facing Sectional Meaning

Left Facing Sectional Sofa

Different sectional sofa pieces are typically described as either left facing or right facing, depending on their orientation. To determine whether a chaise lounge is left or right facing, stand facing the lounge. If the sofa arm is on the left, you’re looking at a left facing chaise sectional piece.

Right Facing Sectional Meaning

Right Facing Sectional Sofa

To determine whether a sectional sofa piece is left facing or right facing, stand facing the piece in question. If the sofa arm is on the right side, you’re looking at a right facing sectional piece. In modular sectionals, some pieces of sofa might not have arms and would not be described as either left or right facing.

Sectional Vs. Sofa: Why Choose a Sectional?

Choosing between a traditional sofa and a sectional? Here are the benefits of choosing a sectional sofa when decorating your living room.

Extra Seating

Most sectional sofas provide more seating than a regular sofa. While smaller sectionals might have the same amount of seating as a large sofa, they often have chaise lounges or other flourishes that provide more versatility and comfort. Large sectionals are great for entertaining guests, as they’re naturally arranged in a way where people can easily converse from different parts of the sofa.

More Versatility

While many people assume that sectional sofas are only for decorating large living rooms, they’re actually more versatile than you might think. If you’re decorating a small living room or study, try placing the sectional sofa in the corner to maximize space.

A Dash of Style

Especially if you’re dealing with an open floor plan, sectional sofas can help create a distinct room within a room. Not only do they help break up the room, but they also offer a unique style all their own.

Popular Sectional Shapes & Types

Sectionals come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and styles, which means there’s a sectional sofa out there for everyone. Here are some of the most popular sectional shapes and designs.

L-Shaped Sectionals

White Casual L-Shaped Sectional Sofa

(Pictured Above: Trisha Yearwood Atlanta 2-Piece Sectional Sofa)

L-shaped sectionals are perhaps the most popular sectional shape. As their name suggests, L-shaped sectionals form two lines that come together at a right angle, with one end extending longer than the other end.

Chaise Sectionals

Black Leather Chaise Sectional

(Pictured Above: Dino Leather Sofa Chaise Sectional)

Like L-shaped sectionals, chaise sectionals also form an L shape, though rather than having two pieces that form a right angle, the chaise lounge is attached to one side of the sectional. In modular sofas, chaise pieces can be added to other sectional pieces to create a wide range of shapes.

Curved Sectionals

Modern Curved Sectional Sofa

(Pictured Above: Greta 2-Piece Curved Sectional)

Curved sectionals take advantage of curved lines, creating a sectional that’s rounded, rather than having sharp corners. They’re especially great for entertaining, as everyone can have their own space while still being positioned perfectly for conversation. While curved sectionals look unique and stylish, they’re not great for small spaces, as the curved back prevents you from pushing it against the wall.

U-Shaped Sectionals

U-Shaped Sectional Sofa

(Pictured Above: Gotham 3-Piece U-Shaped Sectional)

If you’re looking for a large sectional to fit a big room, a U-shaped sectional might be right for you. As the name implies, U-shaped sectionals extend outward on both sides, which makes them great for entertaining, as the U-shape naturally accommodates conversation for people on either side of the couch. Many u-shaped sectionals feature a large ottoman in the middle so people can put their feet up.

Symmetrical Sectionals

Beige Godfrey Symmetrical Sectional Couch

(Pictured Above: Godfrey 3-Piece Symmetrical Sectional)

Like L-shaped sectionals, symmetrical sectionals have two pieces that meet to form a right angle. Unlike L-shaped sectionals, symmetrical sectionals are the same length in either direction. Because of this, they offer a bit more seating space than traditional L-shaped sectionals, while still providing the same multifunctionality that makes sectionals so appealing in the first place.

Sleeper Sectionals

Sleeper Sectional

(Pictured Above: Selena 2-Piece Sleeper Sectional)

Whether you’re looking to furnish a living room or a home office guest room combo, a sleeper sectional combines all of the seating options of a sectional with the comfortable sleeping options of a sleeper sofa. Sleeper sectionals can come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, making them a great option for people who want to take advantage of the dual purpose of the sleeper sectional.

Reclining Sectionals

Reclining Leather Sofa

(Pictured Above: Cooper Leather 6-Piece Leather Reclining Sectional)

Reclining sectionals are sectionals that feature one or more seats that recline. In general, reclining sofas tend to be larger in size, though they come in a wide range of styles. Because of their large size and reclining functionality, reclining sectionals are great for family rooms and home theaters, and many reclining power sectionals include tray tables, cup holders, built-in storage consoles, and even USB charging ports.

Modular Sectionals

Modular Sectional Sofa

(Pictured Above: Shearson 4-Piece Modular Sectional Sofa)

Modular sectionals are sectionals that come with multiple types of individual pieces, which you can mix and match into a wide range of configurations. If you’re furnishing an oddly shaped room, modular sectionals can be great, because you don’t necessarily need to arrange them into one solid entity. Instead, you can use different sections as stand-alone pieces. You can even easily rearrange the sectional pieces when entertaining guests for more versatility.

How to Choose a Sectional?

Wondering how to choose a sectional that fits your lifestyle, interior design style, and room dimensions? Here’s how to get started.

Consider your Budget

When choosing a sectional, it’s important to look for affordable sectionals in your specific price range. Remember, there are certain factors that will almost certainly add to the price. Power reclining sectionals, for example, will likely have a higher price tag than stationary sectionals of the same size. Material will also make a difference, as will the size. In general, the more pieces included in a sectional sofa, the more expensive it will be.

That said, if a sectional sofa will replace other seating in the house, make sure to factor that into your decision. A large sectional sofa, for example, might alleviate the need for a loveseat, so make sure to take that into account when figuring out your specific sectional budget. At Star Furniture, we have a huge collection of affordable sectionals for every price range, and you can easily sort our sectional inventory by price range so you aren’t tempted to overspend.

Consider the Size & Shape of the Room

Unfortunately, it’s not just about the most affordable couch that looks the best and fits your lifestyle. You also have to consider the size and shape of the room the sectional will go in. Before you purchase a sectional, make sure you’ve measured the room and compared it to the dimensions of the sofa. You can even use our free room planner tool to see how different sectionals would look in a room of your size and shape. Wondering what size sectional for your room? Follow these general rules:

Pay Attention to Spacing

Your sectional sofa should not occupy the entire length of the wall and there should be at least 18 inches of space on either side of the sectional. This will help with traffic flow and will keep the room from feeling overstuffed.

Be Thoughtful with Chaise Placement

If your sectional sofa features a chaise lounge, you’ll want to consider putting the chaise on the side with the least amount of traffic to prevent yourself from having to constantly walk around it. You also don’t want the chaise to extend out more than halfway across the room.

Don’t Block Architectural Features

When considering different ways to arrange a sectional, make sure to avoid blocking architectural features like fireplaces, windows, or built-in shelving. Not only will placing the sectional in front of the features block them from view, but it can also make it impossible to start a fire or easily access the items on your shelves.

Consider the Function

If you’re familiar with the interior design rule “function over form,” you know that one of the most important aspects of a piece of furniture is how you plan to use it. Think about the room your sectional couch will occupy. What is that room most often used for? If you like to frequently entertain guests, for example, you’ll want to choose a sectional with extra seating. If you like to sprawl out while watching Netflix, you might want to consider a sectional with a chaise lounge. During this step, it’s important to think about how you will actually use the room, not how you hope you’ll use the room.

Consider Furniture Scale

When choosing a sectional, it’s important to consider furniture scale. In design, furniture scale refers to the width, height, and length of your furniture. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want all of the furniture in the room to be proportional to one another. If, for example, you have a small, modern loveseat and coffee table, you might not want to choose a huge, overstuffed sectional. You should also consider the height of your sectional.

The scale of your furniture is often determined by the interior design style you’ve chosen to decorate your home, but it can also be determined by the size and shape of the room. If you have tall ceilings, for example, a low profile sectional may look insignificant in the room.

Consider Your Interior Design Style

Another important factor when choosing a sectional is the interior design style of your décor. While a traditional style sectional might have a larger scale with a more ornate silhouette, a modern sectional will likely feature a minimalist silhouette and low profile. While many sectional couches fall into a more neutral, transitional furniture style, you will want to consider interior design style when choosing your sectional.

Different Ways to Arrange a Sectional

Looking for living room layout ideas for sectional sofas? These ideas for different ways to arrange a sectional might help.

Remove Competing Furniture

Sectionals are often larger than other types of sofas, so if you’re planning to put a sectional in your living room, you’ll want to try to simplify the rest of the furniture in the room. You might, for example, get rid of some of the end tables and floor lamps in the room so it doesn’t feel cramped, opting instead for a large coffee table or ottoman and overhead lighting.

Take Advantage of Walls

While floating furniture is often best practice when decorating a living room, with a sectional, you might be better off utilizing at least one wall. If you have an open floor plan, try having one side of your sectional against the wall. If you’re decorating a small living room, you might even want to put the corner of the sectional against the corner of the room, with the sectional pushing up against two walls for maximum traffic flow.

Consider Focal Points

Many living room layouts center around one or more focal points. While the focal point can be anything from a fireplace or a television to an accent wall or a picture window, one living room layout tip is to make sure the sectional sofa honors the rooms focal point. If, for example, the focal point is the television, the sectional should go wherever the most people would be able to see the television screen.

Need more living room inspiration? Check out our extensive collection of living room furniture including sofas, sectionals, recliners, coffee tables, cocktail ottomans, and everything else you need to create the home of your dreams. In the meantime, check out our interior design blog where we cover everything from how to decorate a long, narrow living room to how to clean different couch upholsteries.

Previous post:

Next post: