Buying a couch can feel like a big decision, as it’s a large item that you want to use for years to come. But what are the things to consider when you are buying a sectional?
How do you know you need or want a sectional verses a regular sofa? Do you need a custom-sized sectional or will a ready-to-buy option work?
We’ll help you navigate some of those important questions before you buy to help you feel confident that you are picking the best sectional sofa that’s just right for you!
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Why buy a sectional? What are the benefits?
In general, the sectional sofa is going to be different from a traditional sofa in that it:
- Has more space/seating for larger families or parties. Having that extra section on it means that you can fit more people at a time for parties or gatherings.
- Fills out space or sectioning space in rooms that need it. Depending on your room, having an L-shaped couch or curved section can help take up empty space and put it to use. Or, it can help section off one space from another with the back of the couch as a divider between the spaces.
- Allows loungers to use the additional section to sprawl out more and put their feet up without having to have an additional ottoman nearby.
It’s good to keep in mind that it also comes in sleeper sofa options, so that it can provide some guest accommodation if you don’t have a dedicated guest room.
How do I measure for a sectional to know if it will fit?
Although it may feel a bit silly, we are big fans of taking the measurements for the sectional you are considering and blocking out those measurements on the floor with painter’s tape (where you think it would go).
That way, you can see exactly how large it is in the space and make sure you still have room for important items like side tables, coffee tables, accent chairs, or whatever other furniture you are wanting to use in the space.
Blocking out the size also helps you make sure that you have enough room for clear walkways around the sectional so that your walking paths don’t feel obstructed.
Other things to consider with sectional measuring:
- How tall is the sectional? If you have a lot of low profile pieces in the room, buying something really tall may look out of place.
- Is it going next to or in front of a window? Depending on the window height, you may want a more low profile piece to block less light (and you may want a fabric that is more UV light resistant to minimize fading).
- Do you want a sectional that’s reversible? If you think you may reconfigure your space in the near-ish future, you may want to think about a reversible sectional so that you have more floor plan options in the future with any changes you want to make.
TIP: Make sure to find out how big the sections are and where they come apart so that you know all the necessary pieces will fit through doorways and hallways before ordering!!
What type of coffee table goes best with a sectional?
Since coffee tables are an essential part of any couch setup, it’s good to think about what shape of coffee table fits in best with a sectional.
Generally a round coffee table fits best with a sectional design. It gives you plenty of space for food and drink, is accessible from any protruding sections off the main sofa area, and you won’t hit your knees on it in the corners.
If you have a corner or an L-shaped sectional with right angles in the corners, a rectangle or square coffee table may work best. Just keep enough room for walkways and knees when sitting.
Need tips? Check out our favorite 3 Ways to Style a Coffee Table!
Can I get a custom sectional sofa to fit my unique needs and space?
Yes! There are plenty of modular sectional sofa designs where you can “create your own” size by combining different sized sections together. It’s a great option when you have a unique size space or just can’t find what you’re looking for.
There are also some companies that offer the option to build your own size from the start (West Elm offers it as well), so you can get exactly what you want in your style and fabric choice.
Types of Sectional Sofas:
One of the most popular designs, the L-shaped sectional is a smaller option that has a chaise section that comes off of the main sofa trunk so you have the option to sit or recline.
It’s great for those who don’t have a lot of room to work with but still want more seating options, or the ability to lounge without moving an ottoman back and forth.
This shape is larger than a standard L-shape as it has two chaises (or sections) off the main sofa and works better in larger rooms for the maximum amount of seating space.
Perfect for bigger family rooms, this type of seating makes it easier for larger crowds to all hang out together.
A corner sectional is similar to an L-shape but instead of a backless chaise coming off of the main sofa part, you get two sections at a right angle that both have full backs and armrests on them.
The advantage here is that you can use one side as a chaise if you feel like lounging, but you can also seat people more comfortably since there is also a full back to lean upon as well.
Curved sofas are also a great choice for conversation areas, as there is no awkward corner seat and all the people are facing each other. You’ll also want a larger space for this design and definitely a curved coffee table to follow the curved lines.
Modular sofas come in sections so they are an easy way to build-you-own custom size and shape that can be potentially rearranged, depending on what you buy.
Some people will even use one section as a matching accent chair, so that’s another possibility to consider.
Devion Sleeper Sofa with Storage Chaise
(It’s Also Reversible!)
Sleeper sectionals are great because they give you an option for a makeshift guest room whenever you need an extra bed, but they can be your main TV or reading spot again once your guests go home.
Want tips on How To Have A Guest Room (When You Don’t Have A Guest Room)? Check out our ideas!
Reversible sectionals are usually an L-shaped sectional that has the option of moving the chaise section from one side to another.
This is a great purchase for someone who rearranges furniture around their home often, moves a lot, or isn’t sure which configuration may fit a room in the future so that you have options as needed.
What type of fabric is best for a sectional?
Like a regular sofa, you’ll want to keep in mind when the sectional is going to be used, how much it’s going to be used, and who is going to use it to determine the best fabric choice.
When will it be used? If you’re using it for lots of parties and gatherings with food and drink around, you may consider something that is more spill-proof like a performance fabric or a leather option where it’s easier to wipe up spills.
An untreated white linen may not be a good choice if you are president of the weekly red wine club, if you know what we mean.
How much is it going to be used? You can get away with more delicate fabrics or non-performance lighter colors on a piece that’s used by less people or not as often.
For example, a fussier boucle fabric can totally work in an extra sitting room that isn’t your main couch or if it’s only you and your conscientious partner who will use it as a reading area.
High-use sectionals should have performance fabrics (look for the fabric descriptions when buying to see which are easier to clean or hold up longer over time).
While leathers can hold up very well with use, softer leathers will show wear faster than a harder or shinier leather, but some people enjoy the character of the worn-in look.
Who is going to use it? If the answer is “6 children and 3 dogs on the daily,” then you need to make sure it’s a tough or treated fabric that can keep up the pace of spills and accidents.
We love leather options with kids as it’s easier to clean up spills, but some animals may have claws that leave marks if that bothers you as they jump up and down.
Also, some fabrics may be spill-resistance but have a weave that traps pet hair more easily and make it harder to vacuum when company is on their way.
There are performance and non-performance versions of most fabrics, so check the fabric descriptions carefully and a lot of companies will clearly designate which fabrics are stain-resistant or pet-friendly as well.
TIP: There are sectionals with removable cushion covers, so if you are worried about spills and stains, covers that can go in the wash may be a big plus for you!
Absolutely stunning sofas. I love the #14, very smart color. Good for office spaces too.
But if you have to think through it sectionals gets most of the room spaces, but if you have bigger space then why not?
Also I recommend if you’re in Oregon, USA. Check for sectional sofas here
First, I’ve had sectional sofa, was Hunter green Microfiber (Very pet friendly durable, easy to clean). Had 2 recliners with fold down table on left side, then a big like pie shape in center (which very hard to move through doors etc. Very awkward) the the right side was a queen hide a bed. Very heavy all pieces and with out a huge great room then really just too big. Was very comfortable and cozy specially on date night. If you choose a sectional I would get one that you could put together or can set them apart by themselves and still work. If you know what I mean. But best of luck. Hope you have fun shopping. Miss those days.
Bless you and your home,
Have you heard of LoveSac? Might be worth looking into if you’re afraid of committing to a sectional!
I always have a hard time driving on expensive furniture. We were very close to spending a lot of money on a new couch when we decided to just get a large IKEA sectional. We spent like 1200, its a large configuration, it’s way more comfortable than the past 2 west elm sofas I have had. ANDD, there are so many sites that make luxe covers for them…. if we decide to change it up, they have SO many options. I think this is a really good route to go if you aren’t sure you want to make the monetary commitment.
Yes to sectionals! I am on my second Friheten sofa from IKEA and I love it! They come in a few different colors and fabrics and you can put the chaise part on either side depending which way you want the “L” to go. One part pulls out to make a bed and the chaise opens up to store blankets, pillows, etc. Its great for my small space because it can seat more people without 2 couches.
YES GET A SECTIONAL! Everyone LOVES to be comfortable, and especially if it’s U-Shaped, then that means multiple people get the opportunity of having the coveted leg up spot. Given, I like to run my house to be super comfy (put your feet up! Who needs shoes?!) and I also love to get comfy in my friends’ places, and I love when they have a sectional. My place isn’t big enough for it, but if it were, it’d be Sectional City, Population: Me.
We bought our sectional two years ago and I still love it. It’s super comfortable and you can flip all (except the chaise) cushions. They are also removable if you need to wash them. The pieces attach together. The nice thing is you can customize the couch with the pieces you want to make it work for your room. We got it in grey and also got the storage ottoman. I would totally buy it again I love it so much. I would definately recommend getting something that you know is good quality. I personally wouldn’t get a sofa from Ikea. They look great but aren’t necessarily going to hold up. I recommend my couch to everyone lol because I am so happy with it. Also it’s pretty cool that I could still order more pieces to change the size if needed.
I’m also in the same boat right now looking at sectionals. We just had a baby and I think a sectional would be great for all of our upcoming movie nights and book reading and the occasional sick day. We have a projector and only one good wall for it, so deciding on a sectional layout for the room should (should!) be easy. Good luck!
I would say yes but a sectional. They are great in spaces and can fit more people or give you a good variety of positions to lie on.
You should see this SNL sketch about sectional couches n_n
I got the Henry sectional sofa from West Elm about a year+ ago. I also have a light colored dog that is allowed on the furniture. I chose the heather gray in their new version of microfiber and it’s held up well and you can’t see the light colored fur very much. I love how easy microfiber is to clean, especially when you have dogs. I’m not a huge fan of big pieces of leather furniture, but that’s just me. I liked the Henry because I wanted something with a back instead of a chaise because our house is tiny and I needed to delineate space with the couch
Emma – If you are concerned about the size of a sectional, do some mock-ups. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get started it’s not that difficult and it lets you see how a piece will feel in your space. When I was contemplating a sectional for my living room, I used coffee tables, boxes, pillows and chairs to fill in the space where the sectional would go. I could move things around, add tables , and walk around the space. I decided that the sectional I loved was was just too big for the room. I was so happy I did this before buying a very expensive piece of furniture. Now I do this ever time I’m considering adding something new.
I agree with the comments regarding avoiding faux leather – or even bonded leather. We bought a bonded leather couch (which was falsely advertised as real leather) and it started peeling less than two years later and looked utterly terrible. We had the sectional vs. couch dilemma when we moved into our current apartment and opted for the latter, primarily because I was worried about a sectional fitting if we moved (which we will, in fact, be doing later this year). However, I bought a large matching ottoman for the lounge that makes it look like a sectional when pushed up against it, which is how we pretty much always leave it and means that we basically use the couch like a sectional, especially when watching telly. This effect only works for certain kinds of lounges, but is an option to consider if you don’t want to fully commit to a sectional, but want the effect of one.
From our experience faux leather is quite sweaty. It looks all nice but actually lounging on it was not nice because it was hot and sweaty. Even if it wasn’t hot out. So if you want to go that route I would sit on a couch made of the actual material you are looking at for a good 30 min before buying.
Have you looked into SACtionals (by Lovesac)?? Mine is amazing! You can rearrange the pieces whenever you want, so if you hate the L or Z, you can turn it into two couches. If you move, you can split it into chaise chairs. I just pulled mine apart bc my kids were fighting over the corner so I removed it!
The clamp and foot system holds the pieces together really firmly (my initial reservation) but are also easy to work w when you change it up. Covers are removable and some machine washable. (I have a crazy purple paint splotch newspaper collage print) The quality is ok – for reference, I think it’s a step up from Joybird (got a series of those at work).
Good luck! Happy shopping!
I definitely would veer away from the faux leather- if it gets exposed to too much sunlight through the windows, it will start to crack and peel away!
They are all beautiful, but would definitely go for number 1. Such a beautiful colour and it is everywhere at the moment
My husband and I have had three distinct sofa setups so far. Sofa+sofa/futon, sofa+wingbacks, sectional. By far our favorite is our sectional! We have a standard L, no chaise, so fit hasn’t been an issue yet really. It’s awesome because we can both stretch out and still be relatively close or snuggle. My husband is a big guy, so big comfy couches are mandates for us. We’ll have to replace our current sectional soon and I definitely think we’ll get another.
We also have 6 animals (crazy, I know) and the medium/cocoa brown micro suede has held up like a champ! We have a few pulls from baby kittens or big dog claws, but overall it’s been great and shows very little animal hair. My only real suggestion would be to make the the cushion covers are machine washable.
We’ve had an L-shaped velvet sectional for 8 years. We currently have 2 cats. The fabric has REALLY held up and is washable. Only one time for a major spill I’ve had to actually unzip the fabric and wash it from the pillows. For some reason, velvet holds up really great, or at leas our has!
Two more things:
1) Our designer recommended a single pillow for the seats. You can see this in the anthro ones. It seems silly but it’s great — when you have three seat cushions, only three people sit there. When it’s one long one, people feel less weird about squeezing on the couch. Plus it’s so much more comfortable.
2) Ours is custom for our space. You might think about it — sometimes getting a sofa made is a similar price to buying one. It was more around the Anthro prices though — not the IKEA!
Omg, I love the color of number two!
But the smarter choice would probably be a more natural color like number seven:)
We used to have a sectional, but after annoying the crap out of my husband he finally agreed to buy a couch and two chairs instead. And I must say…..I miss our sectional! (don’t tell my husband)