35 Types of Sectional Sofas Explained in Sectional Sofa Buying Guide

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large family room with sectional sofa

Not everyone likes a sectional sofa, but I sure do.

I clearly remember the first time I sat in a sectional.  I was in grade 7 and visited a new friend’s home.  Their family room, just off the kitchen had a massive L-shaped sectional sofa that spanned two walls.  It fit perfectly in the room.  Every seat had a clear view of the TV.  Most importantly, it was super comfortable and easily accommodated 6 people.

Ever since then I hoped to one day get my own sectional (and I did).

But I made a HUGE sectional buying mistake that you MUST avoid.  See my first sectional buying story at the bottom of this post.

Sectionals are popular right now

Without a doubt, sectional sofas are extremely popular.  This is great, but it’s a double-edged sword.  The plus side is there are plenty of designs, colors, upholstery, shapes and styles to choose from.  The downside is it’s not easy to choose from so many options.

The best way to go about choosing a sectional for your home

I’ve purchased a sectional, so I’ve gone through this process.  The best approach (after measuring your space of course) is to break your options down into categories.  In other words, get a little scientific about it instead of randomly choosing one.

That’s where this gallery of sectional sofas comes into play.  Below we break down and provide photos for different categories of sectionals.  We hope our sectional sofa buying guide aids you in your buying decision.

Sectional Sofa Buying Guide – Table of Contents

1. Sectional Shapes
2. Sectional Styles
3. Sectional Designs
4. Sectional Upholster/Materials
5. Sectional Patterns
6. Sectional Backs
7. Sectional Arms
8. Other Notable Features

1.  Sectional Shape

The 3 main shapes are U-shape, L-shape and semi-circular shape.  However, with modular sectionals, especially 5 piece sectionals, you can create additional configurations.

A note about L-shaped sectionals – ensure you head to the sectional store with the correct orientation in mind.  By this you need to know your room’s layout so the longer portion of the sofa is against the correct wall with the subordinate arm of the sofa extending out on the side that fits your room.  Of course if you go with a modular design, you won’t need to worry about “room fit” because modular means being able to reconfigure the sofa.

Below are samples of different shapes and configurations.

a. L-Shape

L-shape sectional sofas

b. U-Shape

Semi-circular sectional sofa

c. Semi-Circular

Round Sectional Sofas

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2.  Styles

When it comes to choosing a sectional style for your room (check out our in-depth 17 Types of Sofas article which goes into more detail about each style), you should have a clear interior design plan for your room with respect to color and theme.  This way you will buy a style of sofa that best fits your room.

FYI – your living room furniture can make a huge impact on the overall aesthetic of the room.  It can enhance the design or detract.  Do your best to buy a sectional that enhances the room design.  One exception would be a media / family room where comfort is your primary goal – in this case you may wish to choose a reclining sectional – which is uber comfortable, but not exactly formal living room furniture.

a. Contemporary

Contemporary Sectional Sofas

b. Modern

Modern Sectional Sofas

c. Traditional

Traditional Sectional Sofas

d. Coastal

Coastal Sectionals

e. Mid-Century

Mid Century Sectionals

f. Cottage/Country

Cottage Sectionals

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3.  Design

a.  Stationary

Stationary sectionals are the most common.  The are designed for one shape (instead of mix and match like modular sectionals).  The better sectionals lock or connect the pieces together so they stay in place.

Stationary Sectionals

b.  Modular

Modular sectionals come in 3 and 5 pieces typically.  The sofa is made up of individual pieces.  Some sectionals even have pieces that work well as stand-alone furniture.  The sky is the limit with the styles and configurations – but I’ll set out several modular sectionals below to give you an idea of some options.

Modular Sectional Sofas Gallery

c.  Reclining Sectionals

Reclining designs are ideal for family rooms and media rooms.  They come in a variety of styles – from individual movie chairs (below right) to a more traditional sofa with individual reclining sections (bottom left).

Reclining Sectionals

d.  Sofa/Chaise Sectionals

The chaise lounge is incredibly popular as well.  Basically it’s like having an attached ottoman… but the plus side is you can still use an ottoman so everyone on the sofa can put their feet up.

Chaise Lounge Sectional Sofas

e. Home Theater Style

Like the reclining version, the home theater style of sectional is best for family rooms and media rooms.

Home Theater Sectionals

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4.  Material/Upholstery

The material of your sofa impacts duration, comfort and appearance.  The best thing you can do is sit in all types of materials so you get a sense of what you like… while keeping your room’s design and your budget in mind.

 a.  Leather

Leather Sectional Sofas

b.  Polyester

Polyester Sectional Sofas

c.  Faux Leather

Faux Leather Sectional Sofas

d.  Microfiber

MicroFiber Sectionals

e.  Chenille

Chenille Sectional Sofa Gallery

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5.  Pattern

The dominant pattern is solid.  Yes, you can find striped, polka dot and other patterns, but at the end of the day, your biggest selection will be solid patterns.

a.  Solid

Solid Pattern Sectionals

b. Floral

Floral Sectional

c. Striped

Striped Sectional Sofa

d. Plaid

Plaid Sectional Sofa

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6.  Back Style

a. Cushion Back

The cushion backed sectional is one with the back cushioning attached to the sofa.  Moreover, it’s softer and plusher than the tight back (see below).

Cushion Back Sectionals

b. Tight Back

Tight Back Sectional Sofa

c. Pillow Back

The pillow back sectional is one with detachable pillows which can be handy for configuring the pillows to your comfort.

Pillow Back Sectional Sofas

d. Camel Back

If you’re looking for something more ornate, consider the classic camel back sectional sofa.

Camel Back Sectionals

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7. Arm Style

Every section of a sectional sofa has options with respect to design, function, appearance and style.  The arms are no exception.

What follows are 8 arm styles you can choose from.

a. Pillow Top Arms

Pillow top arms are when you want soft and plush arms ideal for lying down on.  They’re most common on sectionals with attached back cushions.

Pillow Topped Arms Sectional Sofas

b. Track Arms

Track arms are generally more firm and jut out to the edge of the sofa seat.

Track arms

c. Round Arms

Round arms are typically cushioned and are a horizontal tube shape.

Round Arms

d. Armless

Armless includes no arms on either side or one side being armless.  See both styles below.


e. Recessed Arms

Recessed arms refers to arms that don’t extend to the edge of the seat.

Recessed Arms

f. Flared Arms

Flared arms are arms that flare outward.

Flared Arms

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8.  Other Notable Features

a. Storage/Console

Sectional sofa with storage features

b. Slipcovered

Slipcovered Sectionals

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My First Sectional Buying Mistake

I didn’t research sectionals.  All I knew is I wanted one.  My big mistake was buying a sectional which did not have any hooks/fasteners/brackets that secured the individual pieces together.  On carpeting, this didn’t matter too much, but now that our home is hardwood flooring, the pieces split apart constantly.  I either create my own securing system or buy a new sectional.

The point:  Ensure the pieces secure together in some fashion.  This is critically important for any sectional you buy.

Related Articles You May Enjoy:

23 Sectionals for Small Spaces | 17 Styles of Sofas | 75 Luxury Living Rooms | 44 Family Rooms | 10 Sectionals Under $500 | 37 Sectionals Priced $500 to $1,000 | 18 Red Modern Sectional Sofas

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