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types of sectionals

Sectional Shapes: Our Guide to the Different Types of Sectionals

We’ve all been spending more time at home this year, which likely means more time watching TV, reading, or hanging out with family. It also means the centerpiece of all the action is likely 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 the living room and family room. They’re super comfortable and offer lots of seating for lots of people.

Not surprising, there are many different types of sectional sofas—from the L-shaped to the sleeper sectional. And 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 common types of sectionals along with the pros and cons of each one to help you figure out what’s best for you. Read on to see all your options in this complete guide!

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!

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. You’ll have to find a different style.

It’s great for… those living in a spacious apartment 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

L-Shape Sectional Sofa With Chaise

Think of this as the L-shape sectional v. 2. 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 seat.

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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.

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

U-Shape Sectional Sofa

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

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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.
  • It’s the best seat 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 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.

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.

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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 from one side for the other—like a right-arm chaise versus a left-arm seat—so 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 is definitely meant for seating rather than lounging and stretching out your legs, and it accommodates fewer people than an actual sectional.

It’s great for… smaller spaces where you want the comfort of a sectional in the size of a sofa. Check out our guide to sofa materials for the best durable upholstery, and also whether you want a sectional vs sofa if you’re undecided!

types of sectionals

The Pit

We call this sectional sofa ‘The Pit’ because it feels like a conversation pit. It’s one big block of upholstery and 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, recalling the amazing conversation pits of the Mid-Century playboy era.
  • 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.

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.
  • That also makes it not the most flexible option since you can’t separate any section or chaises 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.

types of sectionals

Modular Sectional Sofa

With individual seats that can be separated, moved around, and reconfigured, modular sectional offers 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.

Cons:

  • They can sometimes get moved out of their intended spot 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.

Find more sectional design ideas!

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Sectional vs Sofa: How to Pick the Best Seat for Your House

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.

sectional vs sofa1. 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.

Sofa vs SectionalThe 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.

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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.

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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.

sectional vs sofa layout2. 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.

sectional vs sofaThe 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.

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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.

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L-shaped sectional living room

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.

Chaise sectional living room designOur 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

Sectional vs sofa layout3. 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.

Two sofas living room designThe 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.

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two sofas living room layoutWhy 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.

sectional vs sofaThe 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.

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L-shaped sectional living room designWhy 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.

two sofas living roomOur 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.

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