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Difference Between a Sofa and a Sectional

Sofas and sectionals are two types of sitting furniture that have evolved over the past two centuries to the many different forms and looks they have today. Both are designed for large spaces, to accommodate multiple persons at once, usually three or more, and for comfort and relaxation. The two are similar in upholstery, the wood and springs and cushions that might go into the furniture. Optional features that have been designed for other sitting furniture have also been incorporated into sofas and sectionals, features such as pullout beds, retractable footrests, storage pockets, cup holders and cooling drawers, and a lot more.

The main difference between the two is of practicality, extent of customization and the number of persons either furniture can accommodate. A sofa is generally more fitting in smaller spaces and formal places while a sectional is more customizable. Sofas and sectionals are described and differentiated further below.


What is a Sofa?

A sofa, sometimes called a couch or a settee, is a single piece of sitting furniture made for two or more persons. Designed for comfort and relaxation, its standard features are cushioned upholstery and a backrest that is either a little inclined or cushioned, or both. Different sizes and designs come with different names. For example, a sofa for just two persons is commonly called a loveseat while a sofa with an extended seat to accommodate the feet is called a chaise. Meanwhile, the traditional sofa is designed for exactly three persons and usually has an armrest on both sides. Whatever the design, all of these types are all made of one piece, even with optional features such as reclining backrests or pullout beds.

While still commonly found in living rooms of family homes, a sofa is less inviting to conversation for the people seated because they all face the same direction. The traditional three-seater sofa is especially used in offices and waiting areas because of its more formal look.

Sofas are customizable. One can usually ask a furniture maker to design a sofa in any shape of size according to one’s taste or the space where it will be placed. However, while one can make a sofa that can seat more than three persons, making so would make the sofa look unwieldy and awkward, not to mention almost impossible to transport. Hence the evolution of the specific type of sofa called the sectional which is described further below.


What is a Sectional?

A sectional, sometimes called as the family sofa, is a variant of the sofa made up of two or more separate pieces. The sectional came about because of the need to accommodate more than three persons. The standard features of upholstery and backrests are still there but the entire set may include sections that don’t have backrests. From the name itself, a sectional is made up of two or more different sections that can either be reconfigured or serve as standalone furniture. The pieces may include a traditional three-seater or a loveseat as its main section, a chaise longue as one of its side sections, and a recliner for the other side. Despite its larger seating capacity, sectionals are still easier to transport and move from place to place than traditional sofas.

Two-piece and three-piece sets are most common, but they can only make the L-shaped variants. More pieces can be used to make the U-shaped sectional or the pit sectional. The modular sectionals are at the highest end of customizability, and one can configure in almost any possible way. Whatever the configuration, sectionals often look cozier, and more inviting to conversation for those seated. Aside from living rooms of family homes, they are more common in less formal places such as bars and lounges or restaurants.


Difference between a Sofa and a Sectional


A sofa is a type of sitting furniture made with upholstered seats and backrests designed for two or more persons. A sectional is a type of sofa that is made of two or more pieces.

Seating capacity

Traditional sofas can usually accommodate two to three persons. Sectionals are often made to accommodate more than three.

Look and feel

Sofas, especially the traditional ones have a less conversational, more formal look and feel while sectionals have a more conversational and cozier, less formal look and feel.


Sofa variants are called by different names such as loveseat, chaise longue, chesterfield, and many more. A sectional is itself a sofa variant but it also has its own variants such as L-shaped, U-shaped, pit sectional and modular.

Common places found in

Aside from living rooms, sofas are usually found in more formal places such as offices and reception areas while sectionals are found in cozier and conversational places such as bars, lounges or restaurants.

Extent of customization

While a sofa can be customized at the furniture maker, a sectional is more customizable and the pieces can also be rearranged to desired configuration.

Other terms

Sofas are often called couches or settees while the sectional is also called the family sofa.

Sofas vs Sectionals



  • Sofas and sectionals are sitting furniture made for two or more persons designed for comfort and relaxation.
  • Sofas and sectionals have evolved over the past two centuries resulting in many variants of each type of furniture.
  • A sofa is usually made up of a single piece, while the sectional, which is itself a variant of sofa, is made up of two or more pieces.
  • Sofas and sectionals can be seen in places other than the living room of a family home. Of those other places, sofas usually dominate the more formal places while sectionals dominate the less formal, cozier and more conversational places.


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References :

[0]Harris, Pamela Cole. "Sofa Types for Home Decor." The Spruce. February 4, 2019. https://www.thespruce.com/sofa-types-for-home-decor-452409 (accessed October 19, 2019).

[1]Peters, Bruce. "What is a Sectional Sofa?" Sofas&Sectionals. February 2, 2018. https://www.sofasandsectionals.com/what-is-sectional (accessed October 19, 2019).

[2]Tonelli, Lucia, and Devin Alessio. "15+ Best Sofa Styles Everyone Should Know." Elle Decor. February 28, 2019. https://www.elledecor.com/design-decorate/news/g3133/sofa-styles/ (accessed October 19, 2019).

[3]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/3738/32981626215_1a6f9a6166_b.jpg

[4]Image credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/floor-lamp-beside-sofa-and-window-1571471/

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