Sofa and Sectional Buying Guide- Which One Is For You?



You may be too young to remember but there was a time when buying a sofa meant taking a trip to your local furniture store. There were a few selections on the showroom floor. You had a seat in all of them and made a decision. There were no options and you were going to get a delivery of that exact sofa. You didn’t wait for a new one to be manufactured with your fabric selection or make a request for a down wrap on the seat cushions. That exact sofa would show up at your house within a few days and that was the end of the process. For a lot of us that sounds very limiting but there were some advantages in terms of timing as well as avoiding decision fatigue. 

Fast forward to today and the possibilities are endless. The other thing that’s endless is the wait once you’ve placed the order as the effects of the supply chain issues are still being felt today. Before we can walk out the door with a receipt for our new sofa we need to make decisions. A lot of them! From fabric options to leg stain to upgrade options, there’s a lot to consider. I’m breaking down some of your options including whether a sectional or a sofa is best for you.

Sofa Versus Sectional

SOURCE: West of Main

Maybe you’re undecided between whether to buy a sofa or a sectional. The first thing to consider is the room’s usage. Is it a casual hangout area for your family or is this your space for entertaining friends and family? Sectionals tend to be more casual so a sofa is a better option for your entertaining areas. Sectionals work really well for the rooms that are used for lounging, watching movies or reading.

The other thing to consider is how many people you’re trying to seat. For example, if you regularly host a family dinner but you need to seat 10 people a sectional can work better. I know I just said it’s less formal but if your get-togethers are informal and include lots of kids this is a better option for you. Be careful if your group includes a lot of older people. Sectionals often have a deeper seat cushion and it’s more difficult for older people to get in and out of the deep seats.

Sectional Shapes

So you’ve decided on a sectional but don’t know where to begin in terms of shape. Sectionals are built from individual pieces so really the size and shape is up to you. Work with your designer to get the perfect fit for your space. Here are just a few of the ways you can configure a sectional for your space:

Left or Right Arm Facing Chaise

This looks like a sofa but one side is longer and creates an L shape. This works best for small spaces. 

SOURCE: Camerich

U-Shaped Sectional

This one is bigger than the L shape so you need a larger space. It has 2 long sides that attach to the centre piece to create a U shape. This will allow the maximum seating possible.

Corner Sectional

This one is similar to the chaise sectional but both sides are perfectly equal. You build this using a corner piece and attaching 2 sections that both have a back and arms. This works best in traditional or transitional homes because the symmetry works for those styles.


Curved Sectional

This one is the least popular option but it does allow for better conversation. The curve means everyone sees each other instead of being divided by a side. You’ll need a lot of space for this style.

Considerations to Help you Decide Between Sectional or Sofa

SOURCE: Albion Nord

These are expensive items and you want to be sure to consider all the possibilities before purchasing either. Here are some of the important factors to consider:

  • A sofa is more versatile. If you plan on moving in the next few years a sofa is a better option. If you purchase a sectional you’ll be trying to find a home or condo that will accommodate the shape. 
  • There’s no easy access to a table with a sectional. This is particularly true with a deep sectional but will apply across the board. Often we pair a sectional with a round coffee table but it may not be within arms reach. If you eat and drink often while seated make sure you consider this.
  • A sofa more easily allows for chairs to be added to the layout. A sectional takes up a lot of floor space and often that’s the only upholstered piece that will fit into the space. If you like to entertain a sofa may work better because you can add chairs or even pull chairs from other rooms into the space.
  • Let your style dictate the direction. Sectionals tend to be more casual and relaxed and work better in contemporary and modern spaces. If you lean towards traditional you’re better suited to a sofa because there are more options for you.

Options to Consider for your Sectional or Sofa Purchase

Once you’ve decided on whether a sectional or sofa will work better for you it’s time to consider the options that differentiate them. 


Depending on where you’re purchasing your sectional or sofa you may have dozens or even hundreds of fabric options to choose from. Look for easy to clean fabrics and if you have kids and pets you should upgrade to a performance fabric. These are stain resistant fabrics that will take a beating and still look great. 

You also want to look for information regarding rub count because this will tell you how much longevity you’ll get from the fabric. Look for a rub count that is a minimum of 30,000 double rubs. And yes, the fabric manufacturer really has rubbed the fabric that many times during testing!




Find out how the sofa or sectional is made before purchasing as well as what materials it’s constructed from. If your frame is constructed from MDF (medium density fibreboard) it’s prone to cracking and breaking faster than a frame made from hardwood.

Most upholstery frames are constructed using a combination of glue, screws, dowels, and staples. Higher end manufacturers may use a traditional technique of mortise-and-tenon joinery, connecting pieces of wood with routed tabs (tenons) that fit into holes (mortises).

You may also hear the term bench-made when shopping for your sectional or sofa. This refers to the process of expert craftsmen and women building the frame by hand to the highest standard possible. This is a more expensive option but will give you more longevity over factory made options.



The most common way to build a sofa is using sinuous spring systems. This is a long, S-shaped coil made of heavy gauge steel. These are attached to the frame and will prevent sagging in the frame.

The most expensive suspension option is an 8-way hand-tied spring. This uses hand-knotted individual hourglass-shaped coils that are tied with cord across the seat’s frame. While it’s the best for eliminating sagging and squeaking, it’s considered by some to be outdated because of the expensive repair cost.

On the other end of the spectrum is the least expensive option and that is drop in coils. This is a single self-contained grid of springs. If you’ve ever sat down on a sofa that squeaked it would be this type of suspension. 



The last piece of the construction puzzle is the type of cushion. The important thing to consider here is the density of the foam. A high density foam cushion will bounce back to its original shape even after sitting for hours. A low density cushion will crush over time and that’s where you start to see sagging in the cushions.

It’s possible to go for an all down cushion which feels like sitting on a cloud but beware if you’re considering this. Your sofa or sectional will require A LOT of fluffing if you go with just down. 

My favourite combination is a soy cushion with a foam wrap. This gives you the support from the soy foam but there’s an added softness thanks to the down wrapped around it. 


Hopefully you’ve learned something that will help you on your purchasing journey. If you need more help, take a look at my website. I have several ways to help from consultations to full-service design.


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