How to buy a Sectional Sofa

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A very important part of purchasing a sectional sofa is knowing your available space.  I strongly recommend that the first thing you do is to draw out your floor plan with every measurement you can possibly add.  People tell me all the time, “I just don’t know how to draw anything”.  No problem, a floorplan is not a work of art.  It just needs all the information added so that you can make a great choice when you go shopping for the sectional.  On your floor plan you should include:

  • Where are your windows?
  • What are your window sills and top of window heights? (Are you blocking your view with your furniture?)
  • Where are all your receptacles (plug ins) located?
  • Where are your floor vents, electric base board heaters located?
  • Where is the telephone jack (plug ins)?
  • Where is the computer jack (plug ins)?
  • How many people did you hope to seat at one time?
  • What room will the sectional be used in?
  • Once you add a sectional do have any space left for coffee or end tables?
  • Where will you put your light sources?
  • Do you have room to move effortlessly through the space or is it too tight?
  • Who will be using the furniture?   Family.
  • What is the primary use of the room? (Lounging around watching TV or entertaining or both)
  • Know your access spaces to be sure that the units will fit into your home. (Elevators, hallways, doorways, corners).

Once you have created your amazing floorplan you are ready to seek out your sectional.  This floorplan will make your shopping a breeze with regards to knowing what size furniture you can fit into the room.  Some manufacturers will make their individual units of a sectional in all different sizes and sometimes it may be the perfect match to your floorplan; but, just as often, the sectional sofa is a pre-set size and within a few minutes of chatting with an educated sales rep, they will be able to confirm if the unit you are considering will fit.  Trust me, accurate floorplans work.  They will save you time and energy while searching for the right unit.

sectional sofa

Every manufacturer has their own list of available units with every set they make.  Some will have corner units, left or right handed units, center armless units, single/double/triple units, and chaise lounges.  Many companies have a pull out sofa bed option available.  If it is a ready-made unit you most likely have limited options; the store will carry a specific size in a few different colours.  The other choice is to look at the showroom samples to generate ideas and then you get to order the exact pieces you want for your configuration.  This always takes more time but you will acquire exactly what you are after and most of the time when it is ordered, you get a larger selection of fabric and leather choices.  Most manufacturers take three to four months for a custom piece of furniture to be made, packaged, and shipped to destination; off-loaded into a warehouse; delivery date arranged; then delivered and installed into your home.  If you do not have that kind of time to wait then you should stick to the ready-made, prepackaged deals that are available.  Custom made furniture is exactly that, custom.  Made for you in your sizes and colours.  No matter who the manufacturer is, this process takes time so you need to be very patient. Four months is a long time to wait so remember when you are making your plans to purchase new furniture to order it at the front end of the project; by the time you have changed the floor or painted the walls, the product should be arriving soon after.

Let me familiarize you with some of the terminology you may encounter when shopping.  “Right arm facing, or RAF” – means that when you stand in front of the sectional, the right hand side is called the RAF.  “Left arm facing, or LAF” is the same idea – standing in front of the sectional, the left hand side is LAF, or LHF “left hand facing”.  In order to avoid confusion with left and right hand sides, when you place your order have the sales rep draw out your sectional showing the individual pieces, labelled with LAF and RAF and then show a simple face in front of the sectional so that what you understood verbally, is what has been ordered.

You will also encounter two different types of corners; each one has their own benefit.  The rounded corner unit gives more leg space for the user as well as providing back support without having to use a filler pillow.  The benefit of this type is that you can fit one more person on your sectional because of the extra leg room on that corner. The right angled corner has a deeper seat pan that gives more room for someone to lounge, curl up or use as a back support when stretched out on each side.  It does however, make a tight corner for someone to put their legs there and the back is so far away that you would need a filler pillow for support.

As always it is important to know who and how you will use your sectional.  If this is for the family to sit and lounge every day you need to consider the seat pan height, the seat depth and the seat back height.   A high seat can make it so your feet don’t touch the floor.  A deep seat pan can make the furniture more comfortable for lounging and TV watching.  A higher seat back is nice for head support while hanging out and watching TV or reading.  I can’t tell you how often people came into the showroom and when they sat on the sectional to test drive they picked up their feet and sat on them.  This was done by more women than men but it always demonstrated to me how different we sit on furniture at home compared to when we are out.  I have never gone to a buddy’s house to watch a game; flipped off my shoes and put my feet up on their sofa or leaned back; stretched out and flopped my feet on their coffee table.  But, when people are at home they are inclined to make themselves as comfortable as they can be.  That is why these measurements are so important to your long term comfort.

Many manufacturers offer a chaise lounge option to their sectionals.  Some people love them.  They look great and it gives the user an excellent place to lie out – lounge.  But one of things that I have noticed is that when guests come to your home, not a lot of people end up sitting on them.  Although the position is simple; you lean against the back and raise your feet onto the base of the chaise, but now you are sitting with your feet up.  Most women in a dress or a skirt would not sit on the chaise for fear of personal exposure.  Chaises are hard to get in and out of gracefully.  In a family setting they are perfect.  They’re a wonderful spot with a corner to cuddle up and relax.

Sectionals are usually manufactured in two ways.

Type one:  The upholstery fabric covers the back, seat pan, lower front and outer back areas, but the connecting side portions are upholstered with filler fabric.  (Non matching fabric where the units are touching/connected together).

Type two:  The upholstery fabric covers all of the units completely.  No filler fabric at all.  These units are usually referred to as four-sided finish.  No matter where in the home you wish to place the unit, it is a finished piece all the way around.  This makes it easy for reconfiguration because every unit will work with every other piece.  If you were having a social function that required a slightly different layout in your room and you happen to have the available space, then these units make it a dream.  They are a consistent size and depth so they can mix and match with one another with ease.

Most sectionals have the option of being attached together which makes them very rigid.  The great part with this option is that your units don’t start sliding apart from each other while you are using them, causing discomfort to adults, potential danger to children and making your home look messy.  The downside of this option is, if you wish to change the configuration you have to disconnect the attaching hardware to do so.  Some of the manufacturers have really simple, easy to use hardware connections that can come apart without a fight however, some companies have hardware that is a more permanently attached and will take some time to disassemble and reconnect.

As with most sectionals, they are very monolithic and take up a huge amount of open positive visual space.  Once you have a 10’-0” to 12’-0” sectional running down one side of a room and another 8’-0” to 10’-0” in the other direction it takes away a lot of visual floor space.  Often when the user has purchased a “U” shaped configuration it is even more imposing.  Suddenly you can only see little bits of your floor showing because the rest in covered with furniture.  A way to combat this is to buy units that have some kind of a leg on them so that they become elevated from the floor; which creates the appearance of more space in the room.  No matter how you choose to do your sectional sofa, they are a large item that will eat up your room’s positive space.

The finish material is a personal choice.  Fabric has many positive attributes as does leather.  As I previously mentioned you have to know how and who is going to use the sectional.  Do you need it to stand up to daily abuse or is it in a living room that will be used only once or twice a month to entertain friends.  It is up you to decide what level of durability is required in your home.

Again, know your sizes.  If I had a nickel for every time the installation department would call me and say, “It won’t fit in the elevator.  We can’t get it up the stairs.  It won’t fit down the hallway.  It just can’t make it around the corner”.  I‘ve heard them all.  Please remember that once you have given your money to the store you now own that furniture.  They are NOT giving you back your money because it did not fit down the hallway.  You are 100% responsible for the measurements that you provide so if you think you have a tricky bit in your home, have the sales rep come to your home to double check that their product will fit.  If you are not sure, please ask.  Almost every store will assist you and once their representative has come to your home to verify the measurements then they have to take some of the responsibility if it fails to get inside your house.

Please see the drawings for more ideas about possible configurations and ideas.