We’ve all spent more time at home this year, which likely means more time spent watching TV, reading, or hanging out with family. It also means the centerpiece of all the action is probably your sofa—or, as may be the case for many, your sectional.

It’s not surprising that a sectional sofa is the seating of choice for serious lounging in living rooms and family rooms. They’re super comfortable and offer lots of seating for lots of people.

What is a sectional sofa?

But wait: what’s the difference between a sectional sofa and a normal couch? The frame of a conventional sofa tends to be one solid piece—just a straight seat and back, with cushions for comfort. A sectional sofa, on the other hand, is made up of multiple individual pieces or sections that can be arranged in a number of ways. Modular sectionals, especially, are customizable to individual needs, with pieces like a chaise that can be moved to the left or right depending on the layout of your room. They offer extra seating, with the “extendable” seating creating anything from an L-shape to a U-shape.

Types of Sectional Sofas

Not surprising, there are many different types of sectional sofas—from the L-shaped and U-shaped sectionals we just mentioned to modular sectionals and conversation pits. Whether you’re in the market for one now or thinking about buying a sectional down the line, it’s important to know the different sectional sofa styles out there so that you can find the right design for your space.

So just as we did with our guide to sofa styles, we’re breaking down the most popular types of sectionals, along with the pros and cons of each one to help you figure out what’s best for you. See our quick-hit list below, then read on to learn more about each type of sectional sofa.

The Most Popular Sectional Sofa Styles:

  • Sofa Chaise
  • L-Shaped Sectional Sofa
  • L-Shaped Sectional Sofa with Chaise
  • Modular Sectional Sofa
  • U-Shaped Sectional Sofa
  • The Pit

Already have a sectional but not sure how to decorate around it? Check out our living room furniture checklist and guide to choosing a coffee table for your sofa shape!

white traditional sectional with kilim style rug

1. The Sofa Chaise

Unlike a sectional sofa with a chaise, this popular design is more compact. It has a classic L shape but is closer in looks to a sofa. It’s ideal for apartments or a smaller family room design. Options with a moveable chaise also allow for multiple arrangements without the need to buy a new sofa.

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Pros:

  • It’s a perfectly scaled alternative to the sectional sofa that fits in any home, and it pairs well with other accent seating, like armchairs and ottomans.
  • The chaise part can usually be swapped to be on the left or right one side for the other—so with options for a right-arm chaise versus a left-arm seat, it’s a more customizable design than most sectionals.
  • Because it’s compact, it easily fits into any space or layout (and it can be moved around!).

Cons:

  • This size of sectional is definitely meant for seating rather than lounging and stretching out your legs because of its more petite footprint.
  • As a result, it also accommodates fewer people than a traditional sectional.

It’s great for… smaller spaces where you want the comfort of a sectional in a smaller size. Check out our guide comparing sectionals vs sofas if you’re undecided on which is right for your space!

coastal style living room with sand colored sectional sofa

2. The L-Shape Sectional Sofa

You likely recognized this sectional sofa style right away. The L shape is the most common among types of sectional sofas. It’s literally L-shaped, with one side being longer than the other.

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Pros: 

  • You can easily float this sectional style in a living room or set it up against a wall.
  • It can nest a coffee table or ottoman and it still leaves tons of walking room all around.
  • It’s comfortable and still looks polished.

Cons: 

  • Sometimes these sectionals come fixed, meaning you can’t make the shorter side the longer one in order to fit it in your space.

It’s great for… those living in a spacious apartment or house with an open-concept living room. This L shape is just the right size and can easily zone out the living room from the dining space.

types of sectionals

3. L-Shape Sectional Sofa With Chaise

Think of this as the 2.0 version of the L-shaped sectional. It’s an extended version of the L-shape style of sectional, with an additional chaise lounge pulled up to one side for an extra-roomy family seating area in one piece of living room furniture.

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Pros:

  • You can usually customize these sectionals, which leave one end open for a chaise lounge add-on.
  • Sometimes you can choose a chaise lounge that separates into two parts, with an ottoman that you can move around to make it most functional for your family and space.

Cons: 

  • While the chaise lounge is a great add-on, it only works in open concept floor plans or large living-dining spaces, since these pieces have large footprints.

It’s great for… spacious family homes and living rooms with an open plan. Check out our ultimate guide to living room layouts for ways to work in a big sectional.

types of sectionals

4. Modular Sectional Sofa

With individual pieces and seats that can be separated, moved around, and reconfigured, modular sectionals offer the greatest flexibility in style and fit for any living or family room.

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Pros:

  • Because it’s so malleable, it’s the perfect sectional choice for casual spaces, like rec rooms, laidback guest bedrooms, and playrooms (they’re super kid-friendly!)
  • They’re also a stylish solution for awkwardly shaped spaces since they can be pulled apart and tucked into corners and alcoves and along short walls.
  • The ottoman part of this sectional can be placed on the left or right side of the sofa, giving it ultimate flexibility in your space.

Cons:

  • Modular sectionals can sometimes get moved out of their intended spot due to the individual pieces and since they’re a little more lightweight than other sectionals.

It’s great for… a modern, contemporary, or minimalist living room. They can easily be worked into any size space. Find great layout tips in our gallery of living room design ideas.

types of sectionals

5. U-Shape Sectional Sofa

This sectional is exactly what it sounds like. It’s U-shaped with either tall backs on three sides or two end chaises and an open center, which gives more space to walk around.

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Pros:

  • It’s perfect for entertaining and TV watching, since it can accommodate many people while still making it easy to have conversations from opposite ends of the sectional.
  • It’s the best sectional sofa style for a big living room in a household where the entire family likes to have space to lounge and stretch out.
  • With two chaises, no one has to don’t fight over who gets a lounge seat—and there’s room for a coffee table or ottoman in the middle.

Cons:

  • Because of its scale, this sectional is limited to large living spaces—it’s over 120” long on average.

It’s great for… media rooms and rec rooms that are primarily for entertaining. See how to set up a sectional in these spaces with our tips on living room layouts for TV viewing.

types of sectionals

6. The Pit

We call this sectional sofa ‘The Pit’ because it feels like a conversation pit—an iconic architectural detail of the Mid-Century Playboy era. It’s one big block of cushions, almost like two sofas in one, and it’s among the less common types of sectional sofas. (Though it’s by far the comfiest.)

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Pros:

  • Like a U-shaped sectional sofa that is filled in the center with ottomans, it’s comfy, cushy, and oh-so-cozy.
  • It’s casual and bed-like, so if you’re looking for a unique piece that can also work as a sleep spot if needed, this is it. (Have teenagers? They’ll love it for movie nights and sleepovers.)

Cons:

  • It takes up a lot of space, more so than your normal sectional since it’s one big rectangular block that’s both wide and deep.
  • Its dimensions also make it not the most flexible option, since you can’t separate any section or chaise from it and there’s not much room to walk around it.

It’s great for… large rec rooms and family rooms. And families with kids who like to snuggle up and move around a lot in the living room.

Find more sectional design ideas!

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This post was updated on May 24, 2021

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