A Guide to Choosing the Right Sofa or Sectional for Your Space

Choosing a modern sofa or sectional can be a daunting task. As the focal point of the living room, a sofa anchors and informs the space. Its size, style, and upholstery combine to set the tone for the room. As such, sofa design options are nearly endless. Such a broad selection ensures that the perfect piece does, in fact, exist. However, you might find yourself getting lost in a maze of choices as you scour the internet for the ideal sofa or sectional for your modern living room.  

Here, we break down the decision, so you can easily find the piece that’s just right for you – whether it becomes a gathering place for family movie night or your favorite spot to curl up with a good book. If you’re eager to chat with a design expert, enjoy complimentary Design Services at Design Within Reach. Our pros offer furniture and fabric recommendations, room planning, 3-D renderings and more – all free of charge. For quick tips or to book an appointment, click the black chat icon in the bottom right corner of your browser.  

Table of Contents
Types of Sofa + Sectional
Modern + Contemporary Sofa Styles
How to Choose the Right Sofa Size
How to Choose Sofa Materials
All About Sofa Construction
Final Tips

Ellen Bennett Living Room with Kelston Sofa,   Arc Swivel Table and Maschi Rug
Jonas Sectional, Noomi, Symbol and Tipi in Eliza Blank's Living room

Choosing Sofas for Different Households + Lifestyles

Sofa size is the first thing to consider when choosing seating furniture for your living room. But don’t break out your measuring tape just yet. At this stage, think about couch sizes in terms of their ability to seat your household and any guests you might host – whether frequently or occasionally. There are four main types of sofas: loveseats/settees, standard two- and three-seater sofas, sleeper sofas, and sectionals.

If you have a relatively small household and don’t anticipate entertaining large groups, consider a loveseat or smaller sofa. If you do frequently host guests, think about how they might interact with your living room. Will they be gathering all at once, or filtering in and out of your living room for casual parties? In the former example, a spacious sectional is the perfect choice, enabling everyone to come together. In the latter, your household might be better served by a single two- or three-seater sofa, supplemented by accent and side chairs that can be moved and positioned as needed in your space.

Below, we detail the many different types of sofas and sectionals available, with functional suggestions to help you choose the right fit for your home. 

Modern Sofa Styles

Today’s modern furniture landscape is teeming with unique sofa silhouettes, from traditional tufted styles with rolled arms to sculptural contemporary sofas like Sarah Ellison’s ’70s-inspired Muse Sofa. Though “modern” is an ever-evolving descriptor just as applicable to mid-19th-century sofas as it is to sleek contemporary couches of the aughts, modern sofas do tend to share certain characteristics that set them apart from more traditional sofa styles.  

How to Choose the Right Sofa Size

Now that you’re generally familiar with your sofa options, it’s time to dive into the specifics of sofa dimensions. If you’re furnishing a large space, knowing exact dimensions is less important – as it’s unlikely that a couple of inches here or there will completely interrupt the traffic flow through your space. However, if you have limited space – or have a lot of existing living room furniture, – it’s a good idea to pay close attention to specific dimensions as you shop your favorite styles, specifically sofa length and width. 

For freedom of movement throughout the room, you should ensure approximately two to three feet of space between your sofa and other living room furniture, and specifically 14” to 18” between your couch and your coffee table. Placing a sofa against a wall is a great way to save floor space, but, if you can spare a few inches, it’s most visually appealing to arrange it approximately 3” to 4” away from the wall rather than flush against it. As you shop, make note of the length and width measurements of the sofas you like best. Then, measure out pieces of masking tape to those dimensions, and use it to create a rectangular sofa footprint on your floor. This is an easy way to figure out how your sofa or sectional will fit in your space, but you could also create a scaled-down blueprint using a pen and paper.  

Don’t forget to check out seat height and depth: Your sofa should be neither more than 4” taller nor shorter than your coffee table. If you anticipate lounging or sleeping on your couch, you should choose a sofa with deep seats – at least 24” deep. And, before you order, measure any elevators, doorways, and hallways to be sure the piece will make it into your home!  

How to Choose Sofa Materials

Once you have a better idea of the sofa types and sizes you’re interested in, it’s time to start narrowing your search by materials, starting with upholstery. There are two categories of sofa upholstery materials: fabric and leather. In these categories, there are many, many upholstery options to choose from, each in a wide variety of colors. If you’re considering a sofa from DWR, think about ordering upholstery swatches. Fabric swatches from DWR are complimentary and arrive within 4 to 7 business days. Having a swatch enables you to feel materials and test-drive different colors and textures in your space before you commit to a piece of furniture. 

All About Sofa Construction

As you shop for modern sofas at DWR, you’ll come across more terminology denoting the sofa’s construction and fill, which are also very important considerations to keep in mind before you make a purchase. 

Reid 86 Sofa