In the world of custom living room furniture, what’s the most custom you can get? Two words: sectional sofas. With numerous layout options, these multi-piece sectionals can divide open plans into separate areas, shift and move to accommodate parties or style makeovers, and they are equally at-home in big and small spaces alike with the options of large sectionals or corner sectionals. Hang tight while we go in-depth and tell you everything you never knew about the granddaddy sofa of them all.
First things first: A little vocab. What in blue blazes do we mean by right-arm-facing (RAF) and left-arm-facing (LAF) chaise lounges? These terms will come in handy (no pun intended) when deciding on the type of sectional arrangement best for your space. First of all, a chaise, sometimes sold on its own, is the long portion of a sectional couch meant for lounging, hence the nickname chaise sofa. A right or left-facing chaise simply refers to which side of the lounge your armrests are on. When looking head-on from the front at the chaise — “facing” it — the arm will either be on the right (right-facing) or left (left-facing).
Okay so. As with all good furniture choices, sectional couches require a little planning ahead, whether it's a 2-piece sectional or a 3-piece sectional. Wherever you put them, remember that they will be the focal point of your living space, so don’t skip measuring and envisioning your desired arrangement beforehand. Do you want your layout to be L-shaped (one corner piece) or U-shaped (two corner pieces)? Which sections do you want to be longer or shorter, if any? If you’d like a chaise sectional, decide which side of the couch you’d like the chaise lounge to be on and where you want the armrests to go — RAF or LAF? Since chaises can double as corner pieces, you can even have a double-chaise, U-shaped sectional. Make sure none of the above will block movement through a certain area — unless that’s what you are going for, as for example, when sectioning off part of an open loft space.
Think about intended use. Is the seating for a formal space, like an office, or an informal one, like a family room? Is it for an adult couple, a small clan or a whole entourage? Remember that people like to sit across from each other or at an angle to the side, often making shorter loveseat pieces more useful. Having one very long section on your sofa forces people to sit in a row and makes talking more difficult, which may or may not be ideal for your specific situation.
With infinite variations, other options to consider are reclining sectionals, recliner pieces, reversible chaises/reversible sectional (to switch which side your chaise is on) and even sleeper sectionals to get the most multi-function out of your living space.
Will it fit? One reason we love sectionals is that they are generally easy to move. Yes, they are bigger than regular sofas, but they come apart in — that's right — sections! Sometimes a normal sofa simply will not fit up the stairs, through the door or around the corner. Sectional to the rescue. Those smaller, individual pieces will almost always fit through tight areas. Note: This is no excuse not to measure your sectional units. Always measure your furniture. Always.
Many people also shy away from including multi-piece sectionals in small spaces, believing that the size will dwarf their modest living room. While this can sometimes be the case, often the exact opposite is true. It may seem counterintuitive, but the correct sectional with the right arrangement can often make a room feel bigger by more efficiently using space, such as otherwise wasted corners or areas along the wall.
Dance the sectional sofa dance. Once you own the pieces of a sectional, who said you had to stick with same layout forever? Try separating modular sectional pieces into a loveseat and a chaise, for example. An ottoman can elongate any single section into a chaise, or it can be used on its own as a stool or bench. Use corner pieces on the ends for armrests — or use armless ends to make room for extra seating at parties. In particularly narrow or small rooms, you can even butt end pieces right up against the wall to maximize space, although we recommend doing this with caution to avoid a cramped feeling.
However you arrange it, style your living room sectional couch with an area rug, pillows, accent blanket and matching ottoman for extra comfort. Position a coffee table in the center, making sure it is neither too large nor too small for the sofa. The coffee table should not stick out past the edge of your sofa, but it should be big enough that it can be reached from any seat.
Hook up — or not. Some sectionals come with linking hardware to fasten different pieces together. Others, called modular sectionals, can simply be pushed together side by side. The advantage of modular sectionals is that you can easily rearrange pieces depending on your needs for the moment. The absence of linking hardware also means that you are not limited to using one particular piece in combination with only one other particular piece (that has the matching hardware). You also will not have an unsightly metal apparatus exposed should you decide to use a middle piece as an end piece. Pro tip: Assemble your modular sectional on a carpet or partially on top of a large area rug to keep pieces secure and budge-proof.
Don't forget the details. Sectional sofas aren't just about space and layout — they come in all kinds of colors and textures and there are so many options available. Are you more of a leather sectional sofa (or faux leather sofa) kind of person, or are you into the deep luxury of the velvet sectional? Chenille, with its light-catching, almost iridescent fibers, can make a delightfully modern upholstery choice. Microfiber is also a popular pick these days and oh-so soft.
Seek out designs that incorporate memory foam, hypoallergenic back cushions and covers for seat cushions to make upkeep easier. And just a word to the wise: While cupholders, headrests and power reclining sectionals may seem comfortable, they are certainly not attractive to look at. If convenience is your only priority, however, by all means, don't let us burst your bubble, especially since this is a matter of personal preference.
More important is what's on the inside. Look for pieces that are build with a solid wood frame, especially ones that are corner-blocked for added stability. Hardwood plywood frames are also an eco-friendly choice that utilize the wood pieces more completely and are often just as strong as solid wood.
So there you have it. Whether you are looking for mid-century modern, traditional or transitional style, sectionals come in every shape and size and can be tailored to the needs of your space. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and build the room of your dreams around your seating area. Never underestimate the value of a few plush throw pillows, a storage ottoman, a contrasting accent chair and some nifty wall art nearby. Go for patterns and colors that pop and avoid getting too matchy-matchy.
Live a little and get sectional!