How to perfectly zone your space with seating - the expert guide to living room sectional ideas

Living room sectional ideas are what designers use to create cool configurations for perfect conversational and social schemes

living room with blue L-shaped sofa
(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

It's tempting to assume that living room sectional sofa ideas only belong in large open-plan spaces. And of course, these behemoths of the design world look beautiful in a big space. However, a sectional sofa can often enhance a more bijou living arrangement too.

Whether your living room is compact or colossal, there are numerous sectional sofa layouts and configurations that will encourage conversation, conviviality or just restful relaxation in a comfortable space. 

'A corner sofa becomes a centrepiece of a space, it exudes comfort and creates the perfect setting for relaxation or bringing a group together,' says Zoë Bailey, Associate at design agency StudioMorey. 'It’s efficient, creating lots of opportunity for seating and works well paired with eclectic individual statement chairs.'

Living room sectional ideas

Where to shop for sectional sofas online

1. Zone a large open space with a chaise

white living room with grey sectional L-shaped sofa

(Image credit: Future / Anna Stathaki)

Large L-shaped sofas enable you to zone big open plan spaces, creating subtle divisions for walkways or dining areas. When it comes to living room furniture, they go in where where walls have been removed.

'Most sectional sofas on the market are now modular and this is a style we always encourage our clients to choose,' says Zoe Bailey, associate at StudioMorey (opens in new tab)

'Modular sofas can be entirely customised to fit the living room layout,' Zoe continues. 'Whether it’s a family sofa or a lounge used for entertaining, having a choice of armrests, back heights, ledges and ottomans provides an endless amount of potential uses.'

Thinking about how the sofa will be used is integral to where it should be positioned, as well as considering the flow with other furniture pieces. 

'For example, a sectional sofa is great for a space that’s main use will be to lounge in front of a living room TV,' Zoe says. 'But when paired with a drinks cabinet, the sofa also becomes the social hub of the room. This gives the overall design a range of uses from day to night, and from family film time to social gatherings.

'If in doubt, choose a slightly smaller sofa with a chaise element and bring in an armchair or an ottoman. This can add interest to a large room, with more textures and materials, as well as giving more seating options.'

2. Place sectional sofas back to back

living room with back to back sectional sofas

(Image credit: Future / Matthew Williams)

L and U shapes are big in sofa trends right now. But a central back to back arrangement makes a stylish statement. It also ensures you have plenty of seating - and with additional ledges available - enough flat surfaces for gatherings, while still allowing subtle separation of the space when required.

'In larger spaces it’s a good idea to consider positioning sectionals in the centre of the room to anchor the space and zone that area to make it a socialising focal point and hub of conversation without being closed off,' says Charu Ghandi, founder of design studio Elicyon (opens in new tab)

'This gives the illusion of a more open-plan space that invites guests to the centre, while still being able to branch off into other areas of the room.' 

3. Create a cosy reading corner or snug

reading corner with orange sectional sofa

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

Reading nooks and cosy snugs are all the rage, especially in homes where the rest of the living space is open plan - and busy with to-ing and fro-ing. Having a dedicated area where you can head to relax, read or enjoy movie nights in a media room is a luxury that many plan into a renovation. 

Here, an L-shaped sofa tucked neatly into a corner will create a cocooning vibe that will encourage quiet time and provide somewhere to recoup. Choose rich colors and sumptuous fabrics to snuggle into.

'It may seem obvious, but ensure the chaise is fitted to the best side, so it doesn't block a door or leave a gap of dead space,' say Omar Bhatti, founder, Space Shack (opens in new tab). 'It's easy to forget some of the practical elements when planning your living space.'

4. Encourage sociability with a u-shape

Sofology fifth avenue u-shaped sectional sofa

(Image credit: Sofology)

If you enjoy entertaining or have a large family to accommodate - and space allows, consider wrapping seating around in a 'U' shape with three sections. The beauty of this style is that it encourages sociability, while also providing a spot where more than one person can fully lounge. 

'This year we have really seen the revival of iconic 1970s  in living room trends and furniture pieces. A U-shaped sofa offers the same social benefits as a sunken conversation pit - without having to undertake significant renovations or invest too much in a trend,' says Zoe Bailey, associate at StudioMorey (opens in new tab).

'U-shaped sofas are the perfect social centrepiece to a room, by creating an enclosed, informal environment that encourages sitters to face each other, rather than a TV. Most sofas in this shape also work as a striking focal point and a well-designed classic piece will inform the look for the room’s design.'

5. Personalize with pattern

living room with patterned sectional sofa

(Image credit: Future / Simon Bevan)

A sectional sofa provides an opportunity to personalize your space with the introduction of a bold pattern through the choice of upholstery, as well as the configuration and add-ons you choose.

'The flexibility of a modular sofa together with the use of design options such as removable upholstery coverings, and in some cases changeable legs, different seat cushion fillings and arm types make a sectional sofa as individual as its owner,' says Denis Barclay, senior furniture consultant at Chaplins (opens in new tab).

6. Create calm with low slung Scandi-style 

white living room with pale sectional sofa

(Image credit: Future / Anna Stathaki)

Clean lines and a pale pared-back palette evoke minimal Scandinavian design, which works well in small spaces. This unfussy aesthetic also suits a low slung sectional sofa.

'When designing for small living rooms, we usually recommend a sofa with a chaise rather than a full L-shape,' says Zoe Bailey at StudioMorey. 'This is particularly useful for family style snug rooms as we can create a cosy atmosphere for relaxing, without using furniture pieces that will overwhelm the room.

'If your corner sofa is going to be positioned against a windowed wall, make sure to keep the back low to avoid blocking any natural light or views outside.'

7. Open up a small room

grey sectional sofa in small living room

(Image credit: Future / Rei Moon)

An L-shaped sofa is an effective way to maximise a seating arrangement in a compact space. As well as taking up a smaller footprint than a three seater and separate accent chair, it looks neater and less cluttered too.

'In a small room, tuck an L-shaped sofa into a corner to open up the rest of the space,' says Irene Gunter, co-founder of Gunter & Co (opens in new tab).

8. Mark out a subtle entryway

living room with exposed brick walls and sectional sofa

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

The advantage of a sectional sofa is that depending on the configuration, and where it is placed, it can just as easily close off a space, as open one up.

In a home where there is no entryway - often the case in apartment living rooms, position a corner sofa so that one side has its back to the front door to create a perimeter around the open living area; this will help to provide a feeling of privacy. Buying a sofa in sections also offers the flexibility to expand it at a later date with tables, ledges and more, if required.

'Modular sofas are often selected with one eye on the future as it is a system that can be re-configured if necessary,' says Denis Barclay at Chaplins. 'Its versatility means it can be purchased to suit one space, then sections can be added to, or made smaller to be used in an entirely different area of the home.'

9. Line the perimeter of the room for family time

white living room with grey corner sofa

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

Corner sofas are a great way to accommodate the whole family for movie nights, or just TV time. They can make good use of the space you have, so don't rule them out just because you don't have a large living room.

'In a smaller room, placing a corner sofa around the perimeter creates a cosy atmosphere, without taking up much space,' says Zoe Bailey, associate at StudioMorey. 'This makes them particularly useful for families, who want a comfortable option for snugs and TV rooms, while still having lots of available seating.'

10. Team with a table for elegant dining 

blue banquette sectional seating in dining area

(Image credit: Cat Dal Interiors)

In a large open plan living space sectional sofas can be utilised to section off a cosy dining room area, by creating banquette-style seating. If a truly bespoke option is out of the budget, check what modifications retailers offer. Most have a host of sizes and configurations that will enable you to tailor a sectional sofa to suit the size of space you have.

'Sectional seating allows you to get creative and turn an awkward space into something more useful and elegant,' says Cat Dal, founder of Cat Dal Interiors (opens in new tab).

Jacky Parker is a London-based freelance journalist and content creator, specialising in interiors, travel and food. From buying guides and real home case studies to shopping and news pages, she produces a wide range of features for national magazines and SEO content for websites


A long-time contributor to Livingetc, as a member of the team, she regularly reports on the latest trends, speaking to experts and discovering the latest tips. Jacky has also written  for other publications such as Homes and Gardens, Ideal Home, Red, Grand Designs, Sunday Times Style and AD, Country Homes and Interiors and ELLE Decoration.