This is the must-read sectional sofa buying guide article to check out. We set out the 39 different types of sectional sofas so you get an idea about your options and what to buy. Yes, there are many sectional sofa styles, options and upholstery. We simplify it for you.
Not everyone likes a sectional sofa, but I sure do. I’m a sectional sofa junky. I love them. We have one. I want another one. I like them because they’re large and comfortable. While years ago they didn’t look so great and were usually relegated to family rooms and rec rooms, these days you can buy gorgeous, stylish sectional sofas. In fact, in this sectional sofa buying guide you’ll see many types of sectional sofas.
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.
Table of Contents
- A. Sectional Shapes
- B. Styles
- C. Design
- D. Material/Upholstery
- E. Back Style
- F. Arm Style
- G. Other Notable Features
- My First Sectional Buying Mistake
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A. Sectional Shapes
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.
Curved sectional sofas are a great way to maximize sitting space in your living room without someone getting stuck in the uncomfortable corner seat. All people will be able to talk easily when they are on a curved sectional sofa and nobody will have to worry about getting left out of the group conversation.
These sectional sofas are perfect for people who have smaller living room spaces and want to optimize their seating choices without worrying about cluttering the room or breaking up the space that they have. Because these sofas usually come standard with a chaise as a part of the piece, it’s easy for everyone in your home to relax, no matter if they’d rather sit or recline.
Not as rounded as a curved sectional sofa, the U-shape sectional sofa gives even more space than the L-shaped for people who wish to recline on their sofa. This is a great choice for the family who has a fairly large living room as they tend to be a bit bulkier than their counterparts.
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.
These sectional sofas are going to be a little more traditional than some updated versions. They typically have daintier legs and fine, curved lines that make the piece seem lighter and smaller than some of their heavier counterparts.
Sleek and modern, these sectional sofas will often have updated touches added to them, such as metal legs and leather. They tend to be boxier than traditional sofas but if your home is decorated with a more modern style overall, then they will fit right in and improve the décor that you have.
An updated twist on an old classic combines the best of modern and traditional furniture with a focus on the sophistication of the design of the sofa and less on the ornamentation. The size is large enough for a person to be comfortable and will stand up to even the most active household.
Light colors, durable fabric, and comfortable cushions are all typical of this style sofa. They are built to last, will look great in almost any room, and evoke feelings of a slower time in the past. They’re simple to spruce up with fun throw pillows in bright colors and are easy to care for without a lot of fuss.
With the thin legs, clean lines, and tufting, mid-century furniture adds a lightness and airiness to any room of your home. These sectional sofas still have plenty of room for you to sit but have a lot less visual weight than some of the other sofas available.
Stationary sectionals are the most common. They 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.
With simple lines and a sturdy place for you to sit, these sectional sofas are comfortable and reliable. While you can’t recline in them, you are sure to enjoy a nice rest at any time of the day. The pillows are often attached, making them easy to take care of as you don’t have to worry about positioning the pillows or them slipping off of the sofa while you are resting.
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).
Perfect for reading, watching a movie, or working on homework, a reclining sectional sofa makes it very easy to get comfortable. They do tend to be a bit bigger than their stationary counterparts and require more space so that you can stretch out and get comfortable. If you like to sleep sitting up or need to relax at the end of a long day, then this is the right sofa for you.
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.
Perfect for the more contemporary home, these sectional sofas can be rearranged and moved around your space to suit your needs. Whether you choose to push them all together and make one long sofa or prefer to have them spaced throughout your room, it doesn’t matter. The pieces are light enough for you to move easily but solid enough that you are safe and comfortable while using them.
Many homes don’t have a spare bedroom for guests to sleep in when they are visiting but with a sleeper sofa, you do not need to worry about having an additional bed. These sofas are generally a lot heavier than other kinds since they have a bed hidden away inside of them; however, once you have them in position in your room, you won’t have to worry about extra seating or a place to sleep.
You can easily pull this sofa apart into different pieces and even store items inside the hidden compartments. They come in a number of styles so you can find one that best fits your décor and aesthetics and are a great way to store items in plain sight in your home. These sofas are perfect for both the larger and the smaller home as you can scatter the pieces to fit in your specific space or bring them together to form a more cohesive unit if you are in need of a large grounding piece to really bring the room together.
6. 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.
7. Home Theater Style
Like the reclining version, the home theater style of sectional is best for family rooms and media rooms.
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.
When you choose a sofa made of polyester, you can rest easy that the fabric will last a long time, won’t fade or stain easily, and is easy to clean. You won’t have to worry about the sun bleaching out this fabric so your sofa can go in front of any window in your home. The only problem that you may run into with a polyester sofa is that it can be very difficult to clean the grease out of this fabric so you have to be careful not to spill when eating fried foods and watching TV.
2. Faux Leather
You can enjoy the look and feel of leather at a fraction of the price when you opt for faux leather. While not as soft to the touch as real leather, you won’t have to worry about having your furniture professionally cleaned if there is a spill on your cushions. This also won’t age and patina as beautifully as real leather will but because of its lower price tag, many homeowners still opt for it as a great-looking and durable choice.
3. Genuine Leather
While not a fabric, many people do opt for leather on their sofas for a number of reasons. It feels amazing to touch, looks great as it ages, and holds its value a lot better than other sofa coverings do. You do have to watch out for spills as they will often require professional cleaning. The patina and mild discoloration that will form on a leather sofa as it ages is preferred and only adds to the beauty of the piece.
Made of lots of tiny fibers, this is one of the most comfortable fabrics that is used on sofas today. People love it because it is so stain-resistant and durable. As long as you act quickly when you do spill on your microfiber sofa, there is a very good chance that you will be able to clean up the food or drink before it is able to leave a mark. In addition, it doesn’t attract and collect dust the way that other furniture will so if you suffer from bad allergies, then you may want to strongly consider microfiber for your next sofa.
These sofas are incredibly soft and due to the way the fabric is constructed, they will often appear as if they have variations in shade. They tend to scatter the light when it hits, which is very attractive and a great option if you live in a home that does not have a lot of natural light. It’s a perfect fabric for a busy family as it’s very durable and will stand up to a lot of hard use.
While a sofa covered in velvet may wear out faster than one with a different kind of fabric, it is hard to beat the comfort and soft texture that you get with velvet. When you buy a velvet sofa, it will be soft to touch and comfortable to sit on but you may need to use a steam cleaner to clean it if you get it dirty or have a stubborn stain. Velvet sofas will really make a statement in any room and aren’t terribly common but are beautiful and can add a touch of class to any home when you decorate with them.
This is one of the most popular options for sofas, and for good reason. With so many different styles, colors, and patterns to choose from, it’s easy to find a sectional sofa that doesn’t just fit in your space but perfectly matches with your décor. It’s easy to care for and will stand up to moderate stains without needing special treatment. Just as you can easily wash your favorite cotton clothes when they get dirty, it’s easy to spot clean your cotton sofa and get rid of any stains that may try to form.
Due to the style and make of the fabric, twill hides stains very well, which makes it the right fit for busy families. In addition, it resists wrinkles and can easily be treated to clean it and to iron out any wrinkles that do occur. This type of fabric is also very water-resistant and can easily be cleaned before a stain occurs if a drink is spilled.
While most of the fabric that you will be able to choose from for your new sectional sofa will be a solid color, there are sometimes florals that you can find. These sofas will appear a lot more elegant than their counterparts. It’s important that you pay attention to the pattern you choose so you can be sure that it will work with your décor.
Another fabric choice that you may be able to find is stripes. These are perfect for the busy family or if you are concerned that there will be a lot of spills on your sofa as they can mask and easily hide a lot of problems that may otherwise be obvious on a solid-color sofa. They add just enough interest to your sofa without being overwhelming and are the perfect choice if you want something a little out of the box but aren’t comfortable with large and bright designs. How easy the fabric is to clean depends on what kind of fabric you choose.
The plaid that you can commonly buy on a sectional sofa is not going to be bright and garish. It’s going to be much more refined and subtle. While the pattern won’t stand out from across the room, it will be something that will add some visual interest to your sofa and keep it from being a solid color. In addition, plaid will distract anyone looking at your sofa from seeing any spills or stains that your sofa has collected over the years, making it a great choice for a home with pets or kids.
E. Back Style
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).
The ultimate in comfort, pillow-backed sectional sofas are comfortable, have removable pillows that you can easily move around, and are perfect for sitting or reclining. Since you can move the pillows, it makes it easy to customize your sofa to meet your needs and to be the most comfortable.
A split-backed sectional sofa often appears a little smoother than a pillow-backed one. The pillows are very comfortable but aren’t always as puffy in appearance. This makes it a perfect sofa for a more formal room where you do not want to have large, overstuffed pillows on your sofa. Some of these come with the pillows attached to the back of the sofa so if you want to be able to rearrange the pillows, you will need to pay attention to the type that you are buying.
These sofas look incredibly modern and their tight, smooth backs are streamlined and comfortable without being too cushy in appearance. With straight lines and smooth edges, they make a great addition to any home but especially stand out in modern homes. It’s very common for the pillows to be attached to the back of the sofa. This adds to the modern look as they will never be out of place.
The tufts on the back pillows of these sectional sofas blend in with the overall pattern and fabric or leather used and add a lot of visual interest to the piece of furniture. They are a classic look and often come with smaller, thinner legs which add to the overall appeal.
5. Camel Back
If you’re looking for something more ornate, consider the classic camel back sectional sofa.
F. 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 7 arm styles you can choose from.
This is a modern look that is becoming more popular on sofas. Not having an arm means that you can fit your new sofa in a much tighter space than you could if it had two bulky arms, although you need to consider how you will sit comfortably on the ends of the sofa. You can accomplish this with the right pillows and many come with a number of pillows for this purpose. This sofa is great in a modern home and will add a lot of visual interest to any room of any size.
These stylish, modern sofas look great in most any home and add a touch of drama to your space. They are also incredibly comfortable to sit and lean against due to the shape of the arm but do not give you a lot of support. It’s important to consider your family and think about whether or not your children would be able to resist climbing on these arms as you want to make sure that they do not get damaged because of normal wear and tear.
This is a more traditional arm that you can buy on your sectional sofa and is very common. The round arms offer a lot of support to anyone leaning or sitting on the end of the sofa and are perfect for leaning up against them when you are reading or watching TV. Although this sofa can appear bulky and take up a lot of space due to its larger arms, it is a very comfortable sofa to sit on and lean up against.
Square arms bring a touch of class to your sofa and ensure that it always looks put together. The arms will never appear squashed or out of place and look great on a more mid-century, modern-style sofa. With crisp lines and hard corners, this sofa will make any space look a little more elegant.
Track arm sofas have the arm that doesn’t extend out past the side of the sofa. They are a little more formal looking than ones with round arms and are loved for their straight lines and firm support that they provide. The arms are usually filled with a strong foam so they hold their shape and do not become damaged. They fit perfectly in smaller homes and because they tend to look a little more formal, they are a great fit in a formal seating arrangement with some matching chairs.
6. 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.
7. Recessed Arms
Recessed arms refers to arms that don’t extend to the edge of the seat.
G. Other Notable Features
One option that you may be able to find in a sectional sofa is a hidden console. This is great if you are looking for a piece of furniture that will allow you to enjoy a drink while watching TV or catching up with friends. A hidden console means that it won’t always be on view but when you need a place to set your glass, you won’t have to worry about finding a coaster for the coffee table. You can also place remotes and your reading glasses in the console so you are never looking for them when you want to read or watch TV.
2. Hidden Storage
If you want a place to stash blankets, pillows, magazines, books, or even board games, then you will want to take time to find a sectional sofa that offers hidden storage. This storage is often inside of the chaise and makes this kind of sofa the perfect choice for a home that has limited storage. It’s nice to know that you can easily stash items inside when you are in a rush to clean up your home.
When you want to make sure that you can easily care for your sofa without a lot of hassle if something were to spill on it, then you will want to find one that has a slipcover. This makes it easy to remove and clean it, no matter what food or drink was spilled. In addition, you won’t have to worry about having it dry cleaned as most slipcovers can be washed at your home, making it possible to get the slipcover put back on your sofa right away.
A sofa with a chaise is the best way to make sure that you can stretch out at the end of a long day. This is especially important if you like to sit with your feet propped up but do not have the room for an ottoman or don’t want an extra piece of furniture in your home. The chaise also gives you a place to put the book or magazine that you are reading if you are unable to reach a coffee table near the sofa.
5. Nailhead Trim
For a sofa that has an exceptional finish and looks very classy in any home, you will want to find one that has nailhead trim. This is a finishing touch that really elevates the furniture and makes it into something a little more special than just a regular sofa. No matter your décor, nailhead trim will make your room feel a little more fancy.
Many people love to stretch out at the end of a long day and put up their feet but don’t like the look of a sectional sofa that has an attached chaise. If you want the flexibility of stretching out and resting your legs but prefer to have a piece of furniture that you can move around, then a sofa with an ottoman is right for you.
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 with in some fashion. This is critically important for any sectional you buy.
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