How to Select a Couch, Sofa or Sectional

Leather Chesterfield Sofa

So you’re in the market for a couch, sofa or sectional?  Lucky you!  If you’ve followed me on here, you know I like to change things up frequently in our home – including, if I had my wish, our sofas/sectionals.  But hubby says that’s too expensive 🙁

Given that as a married couple we’ve lived in five different condos/houses and had many different living/lounging spaces, we’ve owned many different styles of sofas/sectional over the years.  I’ll cover the pros and cons of each below from an owner’s perspective (not a designer’s one), as well as some other factors to consider. 

First thing I’ll say is that this is a major purchase.  One you will probably make only every 10 years or more.  So please read this first!

This post might include affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See my policy.

Quality or Quick?

For us, knowing that we would be keeping this piece of furniture for many years, we most recently invested in a quality piece.  No, I’m not talking $6,000.  But I think you need to spend at least around $2,000 for a quality sofa… and likely a little more for a sectional. 

If you need one quick – attention college students or studio apartment owners – IKEA or even Amazon may be a good pick for you.  Here are some quick couches that may hold you over for awhile:

- Decor Hint

Sofa or Sectional?

Now that you know you are going to make an investment, you need to decide whether you want a sofa or a sectional.  So many choices, where to start?!

Sofa Style

Obviously, sofas are better for smaller spaces given their smaller footprint.  But sofas can also be great for larger conversation spaces too.  When you buy a 2- or 3-person sofa, it leaves you more space to add individual chairs that introduce different pops of color or style.  You know how I love vintage chairs:)  And you have freedom to angle those chairs in any direction to create more comfortable conversation directions. 

If you purchase a goliath sectional, you’ve got yourself one fabric and a lot of head turning to talk. So think about how you will use your space.  Here are some inspiring sofa style/setup examples:

One thing we’ve noticed with our living room sectional is that it limits seating when you are eating/drinking.  We didn’t want a coffee table taking up valuable pouf space.  So now when we are sipping coffee, wine, (and more wine), we primarily sit apart on either end of the sectional where the end tables are. 

Living Room Sectional Couch

The center of the sectional is left largely open.  A smaller sofa would allow you more options for accent tables, so think about that practically when planning your room.

One last thing I read recently is that sofas tend to be a better option for introverts.  Think about entertaining (or family time) and everyone has to pack close together on one sectional.  Sofas and chairs give folks more options for individual breathing space.  Something to consider if you have a house of introverts…

If you’re sold on a sofa, one of my dream sofas out there right now is the Sloan by Interior Define. It’s sleek and classy. And you can choose between tons of different fabrics.

The Sloan Sofa
The Sloan Sofa – Interior Define

I’m also equally obsessed with The Field Sofa from Burrow. Pretty good price for a good quality sofa, tons of options for upgrading and fabric choices and it just looks good as heck.

The Field Sofa
Shop it Here.

Sectional is the Best-ional? Maybe?

For me, a sectional is the ultimate in cozyness.  You have so many sitting, lounging, curling options on a sectional, especially for TV-time and movie night.  Sofas seem kinda formal to me, but they do allow more lighting and table options for the room. 

We invested in a sectional from Room & Board many years ago for our TV space and it has followed us to multiple houses.

We picked a darker, more neutral color so that we could style around it as our tastes change.  And also because we had two kids who liked to draw recklessly on most things. 

Living Room Sectional Couch

Looking back on it – I would opt away from a darker color as it really darkens your whole room. Our home here has dark hardwood floors and not a ton of light in our spaces (we have a screened in porch that blocks light to the window above this sectional.) It really just creates a dark vibe that can be depressing.

You can “lighten” things up by opting for a light rug, light curtains, a light wall color and lighter pillows. But really – I’m in the mood for a new sofa or sectional as soon as the budget allows.

Ultimately, sectionals are great for people who want simple… one grand piece of furniture that uniformly centers the room and creates cohesiveness.  They have more options for seating positions, locations, and views.  We can take a nap, have the dog lounge with us, or bond over a family game. 

And nowadays, you can “create your own sectional” on most furniture sites, giving you unlimited options for the size/layout of your room. 

The Infamous Chaise

One commentary about chaise lounges here.  It seems common nowadays for sofas to include an end chaise lounge.  I’m not a huge fan for most rooms, especially if you like to entertain.  It basically eliminates a seat because who is going to lay on a chaise while chatting with adult friends? 

And I’ll tell you that your grandma doesn’t want to try to slide in and out of that chaise, nor do you want to witness that. 

We currently own a sofa with chaise, but it sits in our kids’ game room, and so it works well for them to chill, chat with friends, and play video games.  You can read more about this sofa here.

Playroom Sofa
Shop this sofa here.

Fabric or Leather?

For me, this depends largely on the style of the room.  When we designed our office/lounge, we couldn’t very well have a flowery fabric sofa.  No, it had to be “cool” and stylish.  So we went with this classic tufted leather loveseat.  It is super comfortable and a perfect spot for listening to music with a cocktail… Mad Men style. 

Leather Chesterfield Sofa
Absolutely Love this Sofa!

In my experience, leather has been better for spills and cleanup.  And for some reason our dog snoozes on this sofa most of the day.  But nowadays, companies are making fabrics with more stain resistance, so that may not be a limiting factor like it once was.  Here are some other super-stylish leather sofas:

350 - Decor Hint

While leather is generally seen as ultimate luxury, I actually prefer the comfort of a nice fabric seat conforming to your body.  In my experience, leather makes too much noise when you sit and move.  And don’t even try to sit on it if you’re a little sweaty or you’ll be peeling yourself off!

So, for me, unless the style dictates it, I’m opting for the comfy fabric.  I could opine on the many different fabric options for days, but there are many good sites out there already on that.

Loose or Fixed Cushions?

The back of the sofa/sectional is just as important as what you’re sitting on.  You can find sofas with fixed back cushions and those with “pillow backs”.  We own both.  I think pillow backs are more popular.  They offer more flexibility in moving the cushions up or down for support, offer more options to flip and change them around, and usually come with covers that can be removed for cleaning.

 But I do see an advantage for fixed back – for my husband it’s comfort.  We bought a fixed back sofa from Room & Board back in 2013, and it now sits in our primary bedroom.  This photo below is from our living room in Seattle.

chunky wool jute rug pottery barn

The pillow backs we have now do from time-to-time slide down into uncomfortable positions where he has to reach back and move them around so his neck is supported. 

The fixed back sofa we have stays in the same place and so there is no adjustment needed – just full support when he slides down into coma-mode. As you try out your sofas, adjust your position in the seat and see how those back cushions hold up.

Other Considerations

Two more things. Depth and Legs. Or no legs. Regarding sofa depth; it may not be something you’ve ever even thought about, but it can actually be a deal-breaker.  The seating depth is the distance from the cushion back to the front of the sofa. 

A deeper depth is much better for lounging.  But it can be horrible for sitting.  When you are sitting down, think about the distance from your back to the natural bend of your knee.  If you are short and on a deep sofa, then you will need to place multiple pillows behind your back to get your feet comfortably on the floor – something that becomes super annoying. 

If you are tall and on a short depth sofa, then you may have the front edge framing digging into your hamstrings all day – equally as uncomfortable.  So think that through and compare your seating depths as you are shopping.

Finally, let’s talk legs. You’ll notice our Room and Board sofa doesn’t have legs. It sits flush with the floor. This is fine to create a solid anchor in the room, and to balance out other leggier furniture. I’m all about the balance. If you have other flush with the floor sofas or accent chairs in the room, you may want to consider a leggier option. Plus, it just makes it easier to vacuum underneath!

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