furniture 101: sectionals

Living room with large chaise sectional and ottoman.

When it comes to seating options for your living space, sectionals tick two very important boxes— comfortable and versatile—but have other benefits that you might not have thought of. Here are three more ways sectionals come out on top:

Sectionals are adaptable and functional. If you want to create a cozy conversation area, make room for the whole family on movie night, or provide seating to enjoy a quiet afternoon together (but separately), sectionals can do it all.

There’s a sectional for (almost) every space. Many people associate sectionals with large rooms, but that’s only half the story. Sectionals can help you maximize your seating in rooms of all sizes.

You can use a sectional to define a living area. When placed in a larger space, a sectional instantly creates a “room-within-a-room,” even before you add a rug or other pieces of furniture.

Choose Your Sectional Style

Unlike "regular" sofas and loveseats that come in your choice of rectangle or rectangle, sectionals are available in a variety of configurations. To help keep you from getting overwhelmed, we’ve broken down your options into these six common styles:

L-shaped: One of the most common styles of sectional, the L-shaped (or corner) sectional looks like a sofa and loveseat (or two sofas) connected at the ends to form a right angle. L-shaped sectionals are available in a variety of sizes and can be placed in a corner, against one wall, or floating in the room.

The Hallenburg, with its durable tweed-weave fabric and striking nailhead trim, is a beautiful example of a classic L-shaped sectional and can be purchased in a variety of configurations to perfectly fit your space.

U-shaped: As its name suggests, the U-shaped sectional has three straight sections connected by two right angles to form a U. This style of sectional creates a natural conversation area and is perfect for larger families or those who like to entertain.

The Eternity 4-piece sectional, as shown above, is a modified U with a cozy corner chaise instead of a second loveseat. Shop the Eternity collection to see how the different components completely change the look and configuration.

Curved: The rounded back of the curved sectional allows for comfortable conversation because it gives an unobstructed view for everyone seated on it. Because the curved sectional doesn’t fit neatly against a wall or in a corner, it’s best placed a little farther out into the room.

Although not a true curved sectional, the Canadian-made and fully customizable Sullivan can be configured with angled sections that work with the straight sections to create a gently curved profile and a luxurious, bespoke look—the more angled sections you add, the more curved it appears.  

Modular: Truly modular sectionals, like the modern Mitan, can be configured and reconfigured as often as you like to suit your space, or the armless pieces can be used on their own if your seating needs change.

Unlike traditional sectionals that often come in large, heavy sections, modular sectionals are especially handy for moving or fitting through narrow halls, elevators, and staircases. Because they are made up of several pieces, you can move each piece separately, saving both your back and your walls.

Chaise: A chaise sectional is a sofa with an attached ottoman at one end, allowing one person to put their feet up. This is a great option for smaller rooms that can’t accommodate a full L- or U-shaped sectional because it will fit anywhere a standard sofa would go.

Some chaise sectionals, like the Nugent above, come with a detached ottoman and reversible cushion, allowing you to change the orientation in less than a minute. When planning your furniture arrangement around a chaise sectional, pay attention to the room traffic patterns and put the chaise on the side that gets the least action so that you don’t have to step around (or over!) the chaise to move through the space.

Sleeper: Sleeper sectionals are most often chaise or L-shaped sectionals with a pull-out bed in the sofa section, making them ideal for overnight guests, sleepovers, and epic movie nights. Not your grandmother’s pull out sofa, the Falkirk above is a fashion-forward chaise sectional by day, and opens up to a comfortable full bed by night.

How to Buy a Sectional Sofa

Before you set out to buy a sectional, be sure to research the different styles and configurations available. There are dozens of options out there, so take the time to find the one that’s perfect for your space. If you haven’t yet, take a moment to read our article “What to Look for When Buying a Sofa” to learn about sofa styles, construction, and care.

Once you have decided on a style, carefully measure your space, and sketch out a quick floorplan. Make sure your new sectional won’t extend into doorways or awkwardly block traffic. (See below for more information on how to choose your sectional’s orientation.)

While you have your measuring tape out, measure all of the doorways that the sectional will have to go through to get to your room of choice and have that info ready for your salesperson when they ask. Remember, your sectional will arrive in its individual sections and be assembled on-site, so as long as the largest section can fit through the door, the rest will fit as well.

What does “2-Piece Sectional” mean? Sectionals are usually referred to by how many sections they contain, however the name alone doesn’t necessarily indicate which sections. For example, a 2-piece sectional might contain a sofa and loveseat or a sofa and chaise; a 3-piece sectional might contain a sofa, loveseat and armless chair or a sofa, loveseat, and chaise.

Can I add to my sectional? Some sectionals are limited by their design and can’t be added on to, while others can be expanded with the purchase of additional sections—you’re only limited by your budget and the size of your room. Talk to your salesperson to see what your options are but, generally speaking, custom sectionals will offer you the most flexibility in design. In addition to standard seating modules, many custom designs include specially-shaped sections, consoles, storage, and motion options

What's the difference between left and right facing sectionals? When you are buying an L-shaped or chaise sectional, be sure to choose one with the orientation that works best for your living room, either right-arm facing (RAF) or left-arm facing (LAF). As well, some sectionals are sold as reversible and can be configured either way, depending how you attach the components to each other.

Something to keep in mind when shopping: RAF and LAF refer to the side that the arm (the part that sticks out) is on when looking straight at the sofa, not when sitting on it. In the examples above, RAF/LAF refer to the chaise component. In L-shaped sectionals, the "arm" refers to the smaller section, and if the two sides of the sectional are equal, it can be used either way.

Hidden and Special Features

In addition to being family-friendly and flexible, sectionals often have special features that set them apart from “ordinary” sofas. These might include built-in USB chargers, cupholders and hidden storage compartments, or motion features like power or manual reclining.

Reclining Sectionals: Perfect for relaxing or watching TV, reclining sectionals let you fine-tune your comfort with your choice of manual or power reclining components. If your sectional is to be placed against a wall, look for “zero clearance” recliners that can recline without impediment.

Extra Power Features: For the ultimate experience, look for a sectional with built-in power features. In addition to reclining chaise seats, the custom Keoni sectional features power headrests with a full range of motion and handy USB ports to keep your devices charged up and ready to go.

Storage: When space is at a premium, sectionals with built-in storage drawers and lift-top chaises can handily stow blankets, pillows, electronics, and gaming accessories.

Cupholders and consoles: Keep your cold beverages at your fingertips with built-in cupholders on selected sectionals. The armrest storage console helps keep remotes and other important items safe and within reach.

Ready, Set, Sectional!

Sectional sofas can help you maximize your seating, provide more comfort and space than a standard sofa or sofa/loveseat combo, and give you access to a whole list of features you didn’t even know were possible... until now!


Shop now from our wide selection of sectionals or book an appointment to start building your dream sectional with the help of a Dufresne home expert.