Thank you for all of the posts you provide for free every week. I appreciate learning about what pieces of furniture you think are classic. And, you’re always mindful of our pocketbooks.
But, here’s my problem. iI’s my husband. Oh, I wish I could be original. I wish I had a husband who would keep his mouth shut about the furniture, even though he earns all of the money lol. For some reason, he believes that he’s entitled to a say in the matter.
Isn’t that ridiculous? ;]
He insists that he HAS to have a sectional sofa in our living room.
And, he would prefer leather. Actually, he really wants one of those hideous shiny leather albatrosses with the stadium seats. In a moment of desperation, I ran out of the kitchen sobbing and refused to come out of my room. Oh, I know; very juvenile.
However, my MANipulating tactics worked. I guess he wanted his supper. So, in a moment of vulnerability, he backed down on the stadium seats, and leather. As I’m a proponent of positive reinforcement, I did make him your amazing chocolate cake which made him happy.
But, there’s more.
In addition, our living room has to double as a family room as there is no family room. It is a smallish Bungalow built in the early ’30s; yes, loaded with charm. And, yes, the living room is right there when you open the front door.
He showed me the kind of sectional that appeals to him.
This is the one that nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown.
Yes, Laurel, this is what he wants. And no, divorce is not an option. Other than his fugly taste in sectional sofas, he’s a keeper. But, like I said, I got him to see the light.
And, here is his “option B.”
Fortunately, this one won’t work because it is larger than our room. I’m serious! Phew! Dodged that bullet.
“I work hard and when I come home, I want to be able to relax and I want to be comfortable. Is that too much to ask?”
He didn’t say it in an angry way. So, no, it isn’t too much to ask. And, yes, he does work hard and I do want him to be happy. But isn’t there some other way for him to be comfortable and for me to retain my beautiful living room?
Thank you, so much Sophie. I hear you. Just curious; is your husband, per chance, the one who calls me “that Laurel” ? ;]
Before I go on, Sophie is a fictitious character out of my imagination. But, she is based on real people and situations I have encountered.
I will be addressing broader concerns. But the number one issue when it comes to a sectional sofa, and actually, all lounge-type upholstered pieces is:
And, a common problem is a sectional that doesn’t fit in the room. Oh, I have seen it more than once. They get it home and it does not fit! Guess they didn’t have a plan!
You know, if it was 200 years ago, for comfort, below is the best we could hope for after a hard day of work.
19th Century Chippendale Style Camel Back Sofa – First Dibs
Or maybe this one, below.
19th Century English Eight Legged Regency Sofa – First Dibs
Hmmm… This is reminding me of the Margot sofa! Use: promocode OKLJOY15 for 15% off!
I’m just saying that comfort is obviously a relative thing. By the way, the Margot sofa is super comfy and comes in four hunky colorways.
However, it’s not a sectional sofa.
But, never fear, dear Sophie. It is 2021 and these days there are gobs of handsome, super-comfortable and stylish sectional sofas.
The very earliest sectional sofas are a little unclear, but below, we can see the beginnings of our modern sectional sofa.
A 19th C. Gustavian Swedish piece.
Claude I Sené (French, 1724–1792) Date: ca. 1775–80 Canapé – Metropolitan Museum of Art
No, it doesn’t come apart, even though it is in sections. Interesting, how the ends face away. I think that was to accommodate the women’s big hoops in their dresses. Something like that.
When did the first real sectional sofas come into being?
I’m not quite sure about that either, although I think the Flintstones had one. ;] I can’t find much before the mid-20th century modern movement.
Well, we have this 19th century boudoir sofa from France found on 1st Dibs, but no longer available. But, it too is attached. Interesting piece! That’s new upholstery, but they left the legs as is. I rather like that.
Okay, I found one. One 19th century, Victorian-style piece from France. But, that is all I found that is genuinely 19th century.
And, I found this French provincial-style piece. It’s actually 20th century circa 1960.
However, the hey-day of the sectional sofa was in the 1940s-50s. The one above is not what we think of as mid-century, but they are saying that it is on Chairish.
The sectional sofas began to proliferate in the middle of the 20th century.
This Danish Modern mid-century sectional sofa is more what I think of when I think of a mid-century sectional. Aside from the dirty upholstery, I think that this piece is a work of art.
In Evansville, Indiana where I spent my formative years, we had neighbors who had a sofa very much like this one in their family room. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Everything in their home was mid-century modern. It was always fun to go over as I felt like I was living in alternative reality while there.
So, how did we get from this sinuous masterpiece to the man-eating monster covered in polyurethaned cow-hide?
Good question, I think. :]
Here’s the missing link– or part of it.
Oh well… What’s done is done. But, gosh, they still make these monstrosities. If you have one and love it, of course, I will accept that. However, please tell me. What happens when the queen comes to visit? Are you going to make her crawl on all fours to take her seat? lol
As for the comfort, years ago I came up with a congenial script to explain that they will love the upholstered furniture I sell. Everyone does. And that was the truth! Although, it took about 15 years to get to the point where I could say it with confidence!
However, in the case of Sophie’s husband, it appears that he’s equating size with comfort.
BIG, BLOATED BLOB = comfortable
sleek, chic, stylish = UNCOMFORTABLE
Please take a look at Does Your Living Room Furniture Need to Go on a Diet?
Actually, I think that he has it backward. It’s far more likely that the behemoth is going to be the one that’s uncomfortable.
A sofa doesn’t have to be a distended beast in order to be comfortable. As any woman who’s had a baby knows. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what’s on the inside. ;]
And it’s the same with a sofa, whether it’s in sections or not. Comfort is achieved with interior depth, cushion fill and pitch of the back.
In addition, there’s no reason that a sectional sofa has to be different style-wise from its single unit brothers and sisters.
The sectional sofa with amputated legs.
I never got this look. I mean, we already have a huuuuge hunk of upholstery. Why make it even HEAVIER with this exaggerated rail? (the part under the seat cushion.)
I mean, imagine amputating the gorgeous legs off of the beautiful Chippendale style sofa above and instead, extending the length of the rail.
So, so bad.
What about skirts, Laurel? Does this mean that we can’t have a skirt? I’ll be so disappointed because I love skirts.
Of course you can have a skirt. A skirt is a different thing. Although, generally equated with traditional furniture styles, a skirt is actually modern, since they did not appear until well into the 20th century. Interestingly, there are legs underneath the skirt. They might be short block legs. But, I’ve never seen an upholstered sofa with a skirt that didn’t have them.
I love skirts too; especially a beautiful dress-maker or waterfall style skirt like on the beautiful Jamieson sofa from Serena and Lily. In fact, I’ve featured this sofa in at least three of the Laurel Home Paint, Palette and Home Furnishings Collection boards.
By the way, S & L has all of their upholstery on sale, but only through 11:59 pm (PT) on 7/27/21. Use code: JUSTFORYOU
Another thing to watch out for with all upholstered pieces, not just sectional sofas are weird shapes.
Below is a good example of what I’m talking about
It’s things like this strange arm that I would recommend avoiding.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. ;]
Therefore, please look out for strange arms and shapes. For some reason, they seem even more commonplace on sectionals than on regular sofas.
As for the shiny leather things with the chaises and cup-holders, aside from their inherent fugly. In a living room situation, it makes the living room all about watching TV and that is not really living, IMO. It makes it a media room. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that; however, if it’s the only room for living, conversing, and watching TV, I believe that it needs to function well for all purposes.
Now, does the husband NEED a sectional sofa in order to be comfortable?
Probably not. He could be just as comfortable, I think with a plush deep sofa and ottoman.
What about the sectionals that come with a chaise?
I love this piece and have featured it many times in my hot sales. In fact, you can get 15% off this piece by using code: OKLJOY15. But, it’s not going to work for everyone, and here’s why.
The problem with this piece for TV viewing is that one person gets to put their feet up and the other people watching TV, don’t. That is, unless they get an ottoman What makes more sense to me, is to have a piece like this have a back on the right side of the sectional (or left, if a left facing piece.) That way, someone can sit perpendicular. OR that section can still be used as a chaise.
And then, I would put an ottoman in front where everyone can put their feet up.
As per usual, I looked at numerous sofas to come up with my list of the best sectionals.
Here’s what I’m looking for:
- The first thing I look for is scale and proportion.
- My preference is for a back, not higher than 34″ for a standard arm sofa. The reason is that it is already a big piece of furniture. If, a Tuxedo style (arms the same height as the back, then 31″-33″
- My ideal back cushions are box-shaped because they are sleeker. However, not all of these have that style of cushion, but they are still lovely pieces, so they made the cut.
Do you know why there are almost always back cushions on a sectional sofa?
The reason is that it is not easy to make the pieces of a sectional fit perfectly flush together and the back cushions will hide any small gaps. This doesn’t mean that a tight-back sectional will have these gaps, but the cushions will hide them, if there are.
What else am I looking for in a sectional sofa?
I look for legs of some kind and they can be straight, tapered, turned or those straight, thin, metallic legs for modern styles.
However, if your sectional has a slipcover, it will most likely have a skirt and that is fine.
The other details are the same as for any other sofa or upholstered piece.
And also, here is a lot of good information about what to look for in a quality upholstered chair or sofa.
The following are 15 of my favorite sectional sofas.
Serena and Lily Spruce Street Sectional Sofa
This is probably my number one favorite sectional that I have featured numerous times on this blog. It is a wonderful sectional, because it is roomy but still only 35″ deep. It has a lovely pitch and there are dozens of fabrics, choice of leg finishes and nailheads or not.
Another view of the Spruce Street Sectional.
Some of you may remember a some posts from a few years ago where I took a real living and/or family room and created some room layouts. In all of them, I used the Spruce Street sectional
Below are the posts that feature this lovely sectional sofa.
This cramped vacation home needs to serve as a full-time home
The home has a stunning view, but awkward and unusual lay-out
And this post, featuring two small living rooms and features a Spruce Street loveseat
Serena and Lily Barton Sectional has a more contemporary styling with a partial chaise. I love this piece and as always, it is beautifully styled with throw pillows.
Above is Jonathan Adler’s Lampert sofa in their sectional version.
West Elm Andes sectional sofa above and below
It comes in numerous fabrics, as well lengths, three depths, and two finish options for the legs.
The Andes is also currently on sale!
This is a performance velvet with beautiful styling on this Andes sectional sofa.
Similar to the Andes from West Elm is this budget-friendly beauty from CB2. It also comes in numerous fabric options.
Another stunning sectional sofa is this lovely from CB2
Beautiful curved Onslo-sectional sofa – One Kings Lane.
Love this piece which makes for an easy conversational sectional sofa, or for watching TV. It comes in several performance fabrics. You can see them all here.
You might recall me sitting in this beautiful piece during my visit to their new store in Manhattan a while back. And, it is supremely comfortable. If you are interested in any of these, you can get 15% off with code: OKLJOY15.
This is the Serena and Lily Miramar sectional is based on their classic Miramar sofa and chair.
Above, a beautifully styled with pillows Serena and Lily Miramar sofa
Below is a widget of some of my favorite sectionals. Many of them, you just saw above. Please click on any image to learn more.
And below is a graphic of these sectional sofas
please pin this graphic to your pinterest boards for reference
The upshot here is that sectionals have come a long way since the horrid 70s. Although, it is very important to measure before purchasing. I’ve seen many a home where the sectional barely fit in the room.
And, finally, after weeks of nearly solid rain!
The weather has been glorious in Boston the last couple of days. I hope that you’re having a beautiful weekend, too!
Please check out the HOT SALES for lots of new items on sale this weekend. And, some very special news. Plus, updates for early Access for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale!
And, you can see my new clothing widget with some of my favorites from the Anniversary Sale.
I followed the link to “The home has a stunning view, but awkward and unusual lay-out” and was amazed at the genius of your vision for the space! Oh how I wish I could see how your vision was carried out!
I followed up with them about two years after I wrote that post and they had been working on the exterior, instead.
The cat’s had had their way with the sofa I’d personally built by hand (true), and my husband finally convinced me it was time to chuck the shredded beast out.
He then came home, happy as a clam, with a tall, wood-framed tuxedo sofa that he “found for a great price.”
The d*mn thing is a multi-pillowed scatterback and it never looks put together. It’s only redeeming quality is it’s single-cushion seat which is always the most comfortable in my opinion.
I mean, who wants to navigate the space where two cushions meet, anyway? Especially one’s with welting.
Anyhoo, I just don’t get why it hasn’t sunk in that HE’s the one with clothing taste and I’M the one with home interior taste.
You’d think he’d consult his local designer (Me).
Nope. He’s fine making it happen on his own.
I’ve learned if I’m not pro-active, he’ll take it on and then I’m stuck with less-than-ideal results. Lol. (shaking my head) Beware ladies….make it happen before he gets it in his head to do it himself.
All great points, Michelle!
I tried to look at them objectively, but I just don’t like sectional sofas.
I do marvel at people who purchase furniture without physically trying it out.
I rejected a ton of beautiful sofas instantly after sitting on them.
Yeah… sofas in most furniture stores are not so comfortable. Lots of reasons for that.
I told my husband that we already have a wonderful piece of furniture for napping. It’s called the bed! Lol.
I’m late reading this weekend’s post because I had friends arrive Sunday. How wonderful to have people in my house after more than a year. Yeah!!
Yeah, NO. My husband pressured me to get rid of a darling leopard print chaise lounge when we married seven years ago. When I caved in to that pressure and we went furniture shopping, the only store he wanted was Lazy-Boy. I said, “Sure, they have some attractive sectionals.” Well we ended up with picture A above, the only thing I was “allowed” to pick out was the fabric because he was paying for half. A move later, that ugly (and uncomfortable for a small woman)set is in his man-cave and I have white living room furniture that I bought and I love. He did get a vote on the armchairs in the living room and he likes them (high back and swivel). I find it amusing how he has to maneuver around the large, ugly furniture in his space. It’s also cute how precious and valuable he thinks that stuff is. He says his (quite large) man-cave is too small. It’s not; the furniture is massive.
The issue for my husband is leaning back to take a nap, and putting his feet up. But now that I’m in my seventies, I want my feet up in the evening too. We wore out our pretty chairs with linen slipcovers, so we went to a Stickley sale and found two very tidy, well made, very expensive leather recliners on sale and bought them. Our living room still looks quite nice because they aren’t big and sloppy, and the taupe color fits in well. If we move to a house with a proper den or library, I’ll put them in there and get pretty chairs for the living room.
So, we have a giant leather sectional and it won’t be replaced anytime soon. We have five kids and all seven of us fit on this sectional that has three recliners!! How in the world do I style this sofa? Please help!
My husband works 12 hour shifts and is perfectly content relaxing on our Chesterfield sofa when he gets home. I guess I should consider myself lucky!
I hoped she’d address the “bungalow” w the door that opens into the living room! That’s our house–except from the 20’s! Door opens smack in the middle of the room. Arch opening into dining room. As a result, we really don’t use the room at all!
OKL sadly closed their Soho store a while ago!
I finally discovered the secret to the “comfortable” couch. It’s a strong recline in the back. Men will always think they want the overstuffed, oversized nonsense, but if you can sit them in something with a 110 degree angle on the back, they’ll be happy.
I have the same problem except my husband has a bad neck and is not comfortable in a sofa that is not at least 41 inches. I have found some that can be covered in fabric, just have to protect them from the dogs. Any suggestions?
It is so wonderful to know I’m not alone!
We just got rid of the last ‘comfy chair’ – a puffy overstuffed chair and ottoman whose beautiful fabric was covered in every stain imaginable. After I threatened to soak the thing in Aquanet and light a match to it, he picked out an even more god-awful recliner. It looks like a first-class airline seat on a cheesy airliner. Overstuffed but with a motor that levitates every part of your body, complete with plug ins for laptop and phone.
Thanks for much needed humor this morning – a great column!.
My son and DIL just purchased a beautiful new home with a very open great room. In this case, it was my DIL that wanted a larger sectional for the great room…not a huge oversized leather, but one that she thought could sit 8 people! My son was against it. Because of openings, windows, direction of the TV console, a sectional could only be place one way. My son and I were able to show her that the sectional’s back would be a visual wall and close off the very open space that she loved. Also after talking to some of their friends who have sectionals, they all agreed that NO ONE will sit in the corners and people do not like to sit where they don’t have access to an arm. They ended up ordering 2 beautiful sofas that will be placed across the room from each other and several chairs that will be comfortably placed to still give the the open feel that they love.
Seems like the issue is always “I want a place to lie down and take a nap” and “I want a place to sit and put my feet up.” Issue one:
yeah, you probably need a sofa. Issue two: a chaise lounge is not as ugly as a recliner. The biggest issue is don’t turn into a couch potato spending your whole life staring at the boob tube. How about going outside and going for a walk?
So you have met my husband! In our previous, very large home, we compromised by having his huge, puffy sectional in the rec room with his giant TV with the pool table in the adjoining space. But then we retired and he wanted to downsize and move to Florida. So he got Florida and I got the nice, normal sofa in our only living space. However he does still have the bulky leather recliner. Can’t win every battle.
What’s the “very special news” on the Hot Sales page? I don’t want to miss it but it seems I have! Please help. Thanks!
Loved this post! My parents, who lived in Westchester County NY, bought an amazing custom (and huge) modular sectional from a store called The Yellow Barn (think it was in Bedford) in the early 1980’s. My parents had great taste so it was a modern, sleek, light gray velvet sexy thing. They never let anyone sit on it so when I inherited it a few years ago, it was in nearly perfect condition. It now sits in my very large (thank goodness) downstairs family room. On a whim, I tracked down an owner of the (now, out of business) store to learn more about the couch and to my amazement he said “That couch! I remember that beautiful couch! Your mother had such good taste.” It meant a lot to me and brought back such good memories, as did your post. Thanks, Laurel.
I have the same problem. My husband has to have a leather chair and ottoman. Which I put with a nice fabric sofa and loveseat. It looks classic and makes conversation work. But I would love that chair gone.
I’ve never had any desire to have a sectional. I prefer the flexibility that individual pieces provide.
An ottoman, chairs or another sofa. It just seem better for conversation.
An older couple moved next door to us last year. The wife is very quiet & the husband seems to be the one who decides what their house will look like. He bought a sectional & it’s too big for the room. And it’s the only furniture they have to sit on. When we come over to visit we all have to sit next to each other. It’s so weird.
Enjoyed this post immensely. You are hilarious!
I can relate to this in many ways. My husband loves to lay his head back and recline. We have a taupe lazy man recliner sofa which I just choose to ignore in the design realm of our family room. I use pillows and a throw to help it blend. I’m thankful he doesn’t require cup holders in it! In our LR I decorated with 4 human sized chairs around an ottoman. This is the room for visiting and conversation, besides the kitchen of course! Compromise is the key. Thank you Laurel for this beautiful post!
I had the Andes sofa from West Elm and it is fantastic for everything except tv watching. The back is so low it hit me below the shoulders, so you can’t really lean back and relax. This would be a more pronounced problem for a tall person (I’m only 5’5″). The seat is also quite firm. Very good quality though, and the cushion covers can be washed in the washing machine.
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