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!
Want styling tips for your living room? Check out these room tours!
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.
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!