How to choose between a sectional or sofa

The kitchen is often referred to as the heart of the home. This makes sense to me and holds true in our house, but if the kitchen is the heart, then the living room must be the stomach. Right?! It’s a place of rest where everyone comes together and settles. For your place of rest, what type of seating do you prefer? Here are some ideas for how to choose between a sectional or sofa for your living space.

How to choose between a sectional or sofa
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Living rooms aren’t only a place to binge watch our favorite shows. They are also for entertaining, studying, reading, or visiting with friends. As a decorator, living rooms are my favorite space to plan and decorate for a family, but the purpose of the space often dictates the necessary furniture and arrangement of the space. Sometimes the space has many purposes and it’s not clear cut.

If you’re undecided between a sectional or sofa, check out these six considerations to help you determine how to choose between a sectional or sofa.

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How to choose between a sectional or sofa

What’s the purpose?

The first question to ask yourself is, how many seats do I need in this room? Most people want seats for the family members and then extra for company. So, take a headcount as your starting point in deciding between a sectional or sofa.

Sectionals are highly configurable, they come in every style and fabric. If your space will primarily be used for lounging, relaxing, and napping, then a sectional may be the coziest choice for these purposes. Most sectionals have perfect spots for each of these purposes, like napping on the chaise lounge can be pretty comfortable.

Sofas are great for entertaining large gatherings, watching the big game, and having work friends over because with a sofa it’s easier to have your own seat. Sofas can be just as cozy as a sectional, but they’re often easier to maintain personal space between you and your neighbor. Sofas also make it easier to see others sitting in the room whereas on a sectional you may be fairly close together for visiting.


What’s Your Style?

When it comes to style, we each have our own unique idea of what looks good, and what we prefer visually. So, you should also consider if you prefer the look of a sectional or sofa better.

When it comes to sectionals most people love them or they don’t. These days, sectionals come in every style with multiple fabric selections so it’s much easier to find a sectional to fit your look. Sectionals tend to have a more casual informal style and make a space feel more cozy, but sometimes crowded.

Sofas also come in every style with multiple fabric selections and they may also come in various lengths to meet your needs. Sofas can make a room feel more formal, but also more open and larger. There are many sofas that have a casual look and can create a very inviting feel much like sectionals do.  


What’s your future?

While I think it’s important to select furnishings that meet your needs now and fit your current rooms, I also think it’s valuable to at least consider the future when purchasing new furnishings.

If you know you’re going to move in the not so distant future or even someday, consider that your future living arrangement may not be suited for an extra-large sectional. If a sectional is your preference, look into designs that are more configurable, and easy to switch up.

In the home we’re currently building, we have a bonus room upstairs. My hope is to move one of our reclining Dania sofas upstairs, but the sofa is quite heavy and I don’t know if we’ll be able to get it around the staircase corner. Reclining or hide-a-bed sofas can be very heavy so consider if it can stay downstairs in a new place, or not.


Size of the room

When you start planning the décor for your space, be sure to have every piece of the room measured. When I say ‘piece’, I’m referring to the width of windows, mantels, doorways, built-ins, walls, etc. I like to use graph paper to make a quick sketch of the room with the measurements of all the pieces before shopping for furniture. I want to make sure it fits before buying.

A small sectional can be very helpful in a small/medium room because several sofas and chairs may feel and look too cluttered. A sectional also makes it pretty easy to decide where it will sit. A smartly placed sectional can make a room feel complete.  

If you have a large room and need the flexibility of moving furniture around occasionally, then sofas, love seats, and accent chairs may work better in your space. For long large rooms, you can divide the space into different purposes and it’s easier to do this when you have sofas to move around.


Traffic Flow

If you created that rough sketch of your room and have some furniture in mind, it can help to cut out rectangles for the sectional or sofas you’re looking at. Graph paper is also helpful for this. You’ll want to place the furniture on the graph paper floor plan and make sure there are spacious ways to walk in and out of the space. 

A sectional might fit right in with the way you get around while allowing you to use your space more efficiently and providing a better traffic pattern for the room.

You might need more space between the seating options so that you can walk through the sitting area instead of around it. Sofas can allow for more traffic flow options.


Overall effect

After working through the questions above, you may still be unsure about which best suits you and your living room. And if either will fit, and either will provide the functionality you need, finally, consider the overall effect.

A sectional creates a more densely populated space in the room; and as an anchor in the space, it can make a room look quite full, but at the same time cozy.

Rooms typically look bigger and more spacious with a sofa and chairs because there is space in and around each of the furniture elements.  


Many living rooms can look and function great with either a sofa or sectional. If that’s the case for you, pick the one you love. Once you sort that out, you can look at other factors like the depth and height of the seat because at this point, it’s all about comfort.

As a decorator who loves changing things around whenever I get the itch, having a sectional was very stifling. We had a sectional once, and we enjoyed it, but I hated that I couldn’t move it around. Sometimes I’d remove one of the seats just to have a change, but that wasn’t quite enough for me. However, if you could care less about moving seating around, then a sectional could take care of all your needs.

One of my other personal preferences is that I prefer to buy two sofas instead of a sofa and loveseat. Loveseats aren’t usually that much less in price than the sofa counterpart, and if you have the space, a sofa fits more people for a little more money. If you like coordinated pieces like me, just make sure that you’re pieces are very close to the same height and scale, and you may want to coordinate the arm styles or feet to give the space a more cohesive look – but it’s not a rule to match either of those parts.


Thank you so much for reading, “How to choose between a sectional or sofa.” Finding just the right piece of furniture can be difficult, but patience often pays off and when you find the right piece, it will have been worth the wait. If you need help finding furnishings, flooring, lighting, window treatments, art, and accessories for your space, 804 Sycamore provides affordable e-Design services to help you create a space you’ll love living in. To save $50 off one of the e-Design packages, sign up below to receive the coupon code.

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