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Sectional Shapes: Our Guide to the 6 Most Popular Types of Sectionals

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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Sectional vs Sofa: 3 Living Rooms Designed with Sofas vs Sectionals

Sectional vs sofa: That is always the question, isn’t it? It totally makes sense, as this is one of the first pieces of living room furniture you’ll need in your home, whether you’re moving or just upgrading your current space.

It can be hard to know if a sofa or sectional is the right choice for you. Sometimes the dimensions of a living room dictate which you choose (read there just isn’t enough space for a sectional). But if you have room for either a sofa or sectional, how do you choose between the two?? You certainly don’t want to buy one of each and see which one looks better. And making the gamble on one or the other is risky, since returning a sofa is a real hassle.

To get this design dilemma right, we’re trying on a few options in 3D! Explore how 3 different living rooms look with a sectional vs a sofa. We’ll break down why each option works and what it’s best for.

Keep scrolling to compare how a sectional vs sofa can work in a small living room, a medium living room with a fireplace, and a large open living space.

bird's eye view of a small living room designed with a sofa compared to a sectional

1. A Sofa or Sectional in 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 make the most of a small living room with either a sectional or a sofa.

small living room with a loveseat facing a beige accent chair

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 spaces within a room, which is especially great if you work from home at your dining table and want more mental boundaries between your main living space.

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small living room with a loveseat dividing the living space from a dining area

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. Its vantage point also lets you enjoy the view outside the windows.

A Sofa in a Small Space is Perfect if You…

  • Want a multifunctional room 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.

small living room with a white sectional

The Sectional Layout

This sofa with chaise is one of the most popular types of sectionals for a small space because of its more compact design. While a sectional can only fit against the longest wall in this space, this actually creates an open floor plan with better flow between the living and dining 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. (Want to open up the two spaces even more? Get a sectional configuration where the chaise is on the left side!)

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small apartment living space with a white sectional chaise and small dining area

Why It Works

Despite the sectional being larger than the sofa, this arrangement gives the design an airier look and feel.

While the distinction between the living and dining spaces is less defined, it’s easier to have conversations in this room, 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.

small dining table in an apartment living spaceOur Verdict: Go For a Chaise Sectional in a Small Space

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 guests, and it gives the feel of a laid-back lounge that lets you kick back and sprawl out.

Try on sofas in your room

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layout view of a medium living room designed with a sectional vs a sofa

2. A Sofa Chaise or Corner Sectional in 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.

living room design with a grey color scheme and sofa with a chaise

The Sofa Chaise Layout

For those of you with a house or family home, it’s possible that your living space has a fireplace as the focus of your design.

For a balanced layout, place a sofa with an optional chaise configuration opposite the fireplace, then mount a TV above the mantel. A large sofa like this, with an accompanying ottoman that pulls up to form a pseudo-chaise, will also give you (or the whole family) a more comfy seat to lounge on. This setup gives you a lot of room to add an accent chair and poufs for extra seating space—perfect for big hangouts and gatherings.

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living room with a fireplace across from a gray sofa

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 in need of 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.

grey color scheme living room with a corner sectional sofa

The L-Sectional Sofa Layout

With an L-shaped sectional, you can tuck it into the corner 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.

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living room with a fireplace and L-shaped sectional

Why It Works

This is a cozy alternative to the sofa layout, with a corner devoted completely to lounging.

This setup makes the room into a natural conversation area that can feel both formal or casual.

With the sectional pushed against the wall, it feels like an open living space and 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 more room to play and less space for things to be knocked over.

Chaise sectional living room design

Our Verdict: Opt For The Versatile Sofa Chaise

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 when you have guests over. 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.

bird's eye view of a large living room designed with two facing sofas versus a sectional

3. Two Sofas or an L-Shape Sectional in 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 even a marble fireplace. Our two layouts show how sometimes a larger room with formal architectural details can be just as challenging as one where your furniture options are more obvious.

living room design with two facing sofas flanking a fireplace

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. (Curious what sofa style is right for your space? Check out our guide to sofa styles.)

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, cozy nights by the fire.

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gray color scheme living room with two facing sofas

Why it Works

It’s an airy layout that turns the living room into an instant conversation area that’s perfect 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 layout 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.
  • Love to host guests—whether it’s enjoying cocktails at night by the fire or coordinating 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.

grey living room designed in traditional elegant style

The L-Shaped Sectional Layout

This layout with a large L-shaped sectional sofa feels more casual and family-friendly than the previous design. 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. Ultimately, it’s all about keeping things casual.

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L-shaped sectional living room design

Why It Works

The L-shape sectional 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.
  • 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.

two sofas living room layout

Our Verdict: Choose What Works For Your Lifestyle

Working with a large open living space does mean you have more wiggle roomthere are so many types of living room layouts for a larger space like this. 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.

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This post was updated May 25, 2021