In the world of custom furniture, what’s the most custom you can get? Two words: sectional sofas. With numerous layout options, they 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. Hang tight while we go in-depth and tell 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)? If you’ve never heard of this, stay with me — the terminology will come in handy (no pun intended) in a minute. In a nutshell, these terms simply refer to where your armrests are. When looking head-on at the couch from the front — “facing” it — the arm will either be on the right (RAF) or left (LAF).
Okay. So. As with all good furniture choices, sectionals require a little planning ahead. Wherever you put them, they will anchor the space, so don’t skip measuring and envisioning your desired layout beforehand. Do you want an L-shape (one corner piece) or a U-shape (two corners)? Which sections do you want to be longer or shorter, if any? If you’d like a chaise section, decide which side of the couch you’d like it to be on and where you want the armrests to go — RAF or LAF, eh? Make sure none of the above will block movement through a certain area — unless that’s what you want, as for example, when sectioning off part of an open loft space.
Think about intended use. Is it a formal space or an informal one? Is it for an adult couple, a family of four or a whole entourage? Remember that people like to sit across from each other or at an angle to the side. 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.
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 — get this — 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 — always.
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 pieces into a loveseat and a chaise, for example. Ottomans can elongate any single section into a chaise, or they can be used on their own as stools or benches. 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.
Hook up — or not. Some sectionals come with linking hardware to fasten different pieces together. Others, you simply push together side by side. The advantage of the push-together variety 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 (with 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 push-together sectional on a carpet or partially on top of a large rug to keep pieces secure and budge-proof.
So there you have it. Now that you’ve got a bespoke anchor piece tailored to the needs of your space, don’t be afraid to mix it up and build the room of your dreams around it. Never underestimate the value of a few good accent pillows, a contrasting chair and some nifty surfaces nearby. Go for patterns and colors that pop and avoid getting too matchy-matchy. Live a little and get sectional!