Sectional vs sofa, that is always the question. Isn’t it? It totally makes sense since it’s one of the first things you set your mind on buying for a new home—or even when you’re just moving into a new space.
It’s also the centerpiece in the living room that will dictate the rest of your space, so you want to make sure you choose the best option that works for how you live and use your space. So, whether you end up choosing a sofa or sectional for your space, it’s important to make the call early on in your design journey.
To start, consider these key questions to ask yourself: Do you live alone or have a family? Are you pressed for space? Does your space have a weird shape or layout? What’s your daily life like in your space? Does your living area also function as a dining or office space? Are you a big entertainer or more of a casual lounger? Those are questions our Modsy designers often ask customers right off the bat with any living room design.
We know it can feel like a lot, especially when you’re just starting to piece your living room design together. To help you figure out what’s right for your space, we designed three living rooms of varying shapes and sizes to show you how they would each look with a sectional and a sofa.
Read on to see all the different layouts, how a sectional vs sofa can work in each of those spaces, and our designers’ verdicts on the final option that might just be perfect for you.
1. A Small Living Room
Our first room is a rectangular living space that’s tight on square footage and needs to also fit a dining area. The two designs here show how it’s possible to do all that with a sectional or a sofa.
The Sofa Layout
If you live in a small home or tiny apartment, chances are you have one main living area that needs to also double as your dining space.
In this layout design, a compact sofa for two can function as a deliberate space divider, separating the zones for lounging and dining. It creates the feeling of distinct rooms within a room, which is especially great if you work from home at your dining table and want more mental boundaries between your main spaces.Shop This Look
Why It Works:
It’s the perfect two-seater size for a small space, but it leaves enough room for you to add more seating, like an armchair or side chair.
The size is comfy and doesn’t look bulky or overwhelming in a small space.
Because it’s compact, it doesn’t obstruct the flow in a small space—it even lets you enjoy the view outside the windows in its place as a divider here.
A Sofa in a Small Space is Perfect if You…
- Want a multifunctional space that has a clear separation between your living and dining spaces.
- Are a fan of casual but intimate parties and get-togethers.
- Live by yourself and don’t need a lot of seats but do enjoy having friends over for small weeknight dinners.
The Sectional Layout
In contrast, a L-shaped sectional in this small space will only fit against the longest wall. But this actually creates an open floor plan with better flow between the living and dining room areas. You won’t have space for additional seating, like an armchair, but you also don’t need it since you’ll have the comfy chaise of your sectional to stretch out on.Shop This Look
Why It Works
Despite the sectional being larger than the sofa, this arrangement gives the design an airier look and feel.
There’s a clear distinction of spaces that’s less defined, making it easier to have conversations no matter where you’re seated.
It opens up the room with a casual loungey look that feels instantly welcoming.
A Sectional in a Small Space is Perfect If You…
- Love a comfortable living space but also need it to be versatile enough to entertain friends.
- Always have friends over for movies, dinners, game nights, and get togethers.
- Are a couple who enjoys their at-home time and catching up on lots of TV.
Our Verdict: Go For The Small-Space Sectional
While a sofa can make the most of your small space, a sectional is always a winner if it fits. It’s perfect for watching TV and entertaining, and it gives the feel of a laid-back lounge that lets you kick back and sprawl out.
2. A Living Room With A Fireplace
Our second space is an average-sized living room that fits lots of furniture. The challenge is making it all work around a fireplace design that takes up one wall. These two designs solve for that.
The Sofa Chaise Layout
For those of you with a house or family home, your living space likely came with a fireplace that’s the big focus in the design.
For a balanced layout, place a sectional sofa opposite the fireplace, then mount a TV above the mantel. A large sofa with an accompanying ottoman that pulls up to form a chaise will also give you (or the whole family) a more comfy seat to lounge on. This setup also gives you a lot of room to add an accent chair and poufs for extra seating space—perfect for big hangouts and gatherings.Shop This Look
Why It Works
With this setup, the fireplace and TV have equal balance and are treated as equal focal points.
There’s lots of space to tuck in versatile seating, like the chair in the corner and a pouf that doubles as a footstool when not in use. No corner goes unused.
This layout is as versatile as its seating options, meaning it’s functional while still allowing for a lot of walking room and new pieces to be added over time.
A Sofa Chaise in a Medium Space is Perfect If You…
- Live with children or have a big family and you need a comfy gathering space.
- Enjoy spending lots of time watching movies and shows in a relaxed setting.
- Want a living space that feels like a space unto itself and that feels like a separate zone for tuning out from the rest of your home.
The L-Sectional Sofa Layout
With an L-shaped sectional, you can line it against two walls to create a cozy conversation area where the TV and fireplace are less of the focus. Keep in mind, though, there’s a little less flexibility with this layout since the sectional can only fit in one spot—even if it does help to open up the living space more.Shop This Look
Why It Works
This is a cozy alternative to the sofa layout, with a corner devoted completely to lounging. Although this also means your layout is fixed.
Because the setup makes this a natural conversation area that can feel both formal or casual.
It feels like an open living space with the sectional pushed against the wall and it creates a more seamless flow from one end of the room to the other.
An L-Sectional in a Medium Space is Perfect If You…
- Like having friends over for low-key takeout and wine or hosting game nights.
- Prefer an open setting where your living space feels connected to the larger overall space rather than a living area unto itself.
- Want a layout that’s family-friendly with less space for things to be knocked over.
Our Verdict: Opt For The Versatile Sofa
Not only is the sofa-with-chaise better for TV viewing here, but it also gives you the flexibility of extra seating that’s easy to move around. And even though the L-shaped sectional wrapped along two walls does give off a cozy look, the front and center placement of the sofa is much more practical while still appearing comfy and stylish. 3. A Large, Open Living Room
3. A Large, Open Living Room
In our final design, we came up with an open living room that has everything: built-in shelving, French doors and windows, and a marble fireplace. Our two layouts show how sometimes a larger room can be just as challenging as one where your furniture options are more obvious.
The Two Sofas Layout
To play up a formal look in a large open living space, lean into a layout that’s symmetrical. The best way is to arrange two matching sofas facing each other with the fireplace in between them.
This design also gives focus to the sofas without taking away from the fireplace’s architecture. It’s a layout that’s perfectly set up for conversation and long comfy nights by the fire.Shop This Look
Why it Works
It’s an airy layout that turns the living room into an instant conversation area that’s naturally made for formal entertaining.
Floating sofas is a stylish solution for spacious homes with walls that have built-in shelving and windows. They divide up the space and you can easily put a desk or a bench behind one to add even more function.
This also gives you a solid foundation to add more seats and smaller accent tables around the sofas over time without needing to rethink everything.
Two Sofas in a Large Space are Perfect If You…
- Want a formal sitting room feel for your main seating area.
- Are a consummate host and enjoy cocktails at night by the fire and book club gatherings where everyone can be comfortably seated for serious discussions.
- Live in a home where the kids are all relatively grown up and you want a space that’s a little more elevated now.
The L-Shaped Sectional Layout
On the other hand, this layout with a large L-shaped sectional sofa feels more casual and family-friendly. It’s less about a formal gathering and more about relaxed hangouts.
This layout lets you look out clearly at everything in the room, from the view out the windows to the bookshelves along the wall, and the central fireplace. It’s a function-first approach that’s also easy to switch up over time—it’s absolutely all about keeping things casual.Shop This Look
Why It Works
The L-shape not only helps anchor the living area but it also offers tons of walking space and room to add extra seating.
The sectional is a subtle partition that separates the shelving from the seating seamlessly. The benefit of this is that it gives both areas a strong focus.
You can easily swap the art above the fireplace for a TV, add another small chair near the fireplace, or pull in another floor lamp. The asymmetrical layout allows for all that.
A Sectional in a Large Space is Perfect If You…
- Love the open feel of a great living design but with a modern look. This is it.
- You want to build out your space over time but still want it to feel substantial and decorated in the meantime. The sectional helps make the room feel well furnished here given its sheer size.
- Are one to have frequent family parties and invite friends over for movie nights and big loungey gatherings where people can stand, kickback, or even grab a spot on the floor.
Our Verdict: Choose What Works For Your Lifestyle
Working with a large open living space does mean you have more wiggle room. But it also means that it’s most important to base your layout and furniture arrangement around your lifestyle and daily needs.
If you like to host and entertain, the double facing sofa approach sets a more formal tone. Meanwhile, if you prefer a family-friendly vibe where it’s all about the casual gatherings on the regular, then sectional sofas can offer functional seating and a no-fuss layout.
Ready To Swap In A Sofa Or Sectional?