Mental block with sectional sofa buying options--help?
February 28, 2017 1:40 PM   Subscribe

After years of searching, I am very close to pulling the trigger on a sectional sofa. What I would like to understand before I buy it is a) what right arm facing and left arm facing refers to with regard to this particular model and b) why it matters.

I've looked online about the difference between right arm facing and left arm facing, but I still don't really understand. I get it when I read articles like the one linked, but this sectional doesn't indicate "right arm facing chaise" or "left arm facing chaise"...just..."right arm facing" and "left arm facing". So....? The pictures don't change, either, when you click one or the other, and I don't know what I'm looking at--which one is this? I know I'm missing something here but I've been looking at it for too long and can't seem to figure it out.

Also, why does it matter? I have looked online for some type of guide about why you want one over the other, left arm facing or right arm facing, and really couldn't find much (not on my usual interior design blogs or Apartment Therapy, at least). Our living room is pretty square and traditional with doorways/arches on three walls; I'm having a hard time figuring out which orientation would be better for us and it's paralyzing me. All I can think of is that you don't want to block walkways, or...? I feel ridiculous wasting a question on this but I just.can' Please hope me.
posted by stellaluna to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
OK, I got this from the Joybird website where they have a nice picture to illustrate. If you're looking at the sofa (from the viewpoint of a coffee table), a left-arm-facing sofa has the chaise part on your left; a right-arm-facing sofa has the chaise part on the right (I would have guessed the opposite!).

As for which to choose, it probably doesn't matter if your room is square and has doors on three walls; just think about which door you're more comfortable slightly obstructing.

Or get a reversible sectional, that's what I have and why I had no idea which way was which.
posted by mskyle at 1:53 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you wanted to sit in the sofa and hang your right arm over the armrest, you'd need to call it the opposite, a left-arm facing sofa.

I'd want the armrest next to a corner, with the no-armrest side on the side where there's more traffic. (Because I'd want to curl up in a corner-feeling place, and not visually block the side where there's more movement.) But (if that mattered to you) if there are doorways on all walls but one, which is the wall I'm assuming the couch would be nearest, you could put the armrest on whichever side you wanted.

(If you've got a TV, I would think about that placement, though - I'd want the armrest where my head ought to be to get a decent viewing angle with minimal glare.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2017

IMO, the way people describe sectional couches with the arms etc is confusing nonsense garbage, so when I was sectional shopping I made up my own explanation for it.

When you are sitting on the couch facing front with your legs out on the extend chaise section, whichever arm you have free (i.e. not smushed into the couch back) is the "facing" arm.

So, the one you link to, if you put your butt on the couch part and put your feet on the chaise part, your left arm would be smushed into the cushion, leaving your right arm free. Right arm facing. On this one if you put your butt on the couch and your feet out on the chaise, it would be your right arm smushed into the cushion, leaving your left arm free. Left arm facing. (For non-chaise styles, just imagine you're sitting on the couch the same way, except instead of a chaise bit you got your legs up on, it's another couch bit. The arm/facing works the same way.)

It matters only in how you want it to look/situate in your house.
posted by phunniemee at 1:56 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your "which one is this" link has a left arm loveseat and a right arm chaise according to this guide from Pottery Barn (PDF) and it shows that layout at the bottom. If the description does not tell you which piece they are referring to, assume it is describing the loveseat. The pdf says "Therefore, sectional configurations are named by the arm on the love seat when facing the sectional". You'd want one left and one right if you are putting together a loveseat and chaise.

However, this particular chaise has a similar back and arm, so it is hard to tell the difference. I think of the back of the chaise as the shorter end that has a single pillow on it vs. the longer arm that has two pillows. But if you are assuming the back of the chaise is the part with two pillows, then you would want two lefts or two rights. That may be why they only say Left or Right and don't indicate the piece of furniture.
posted by soelo at 2:05 PM on February 28, 2017

this sectional doesn't indicate "right arm facing chaise" or "left arm facing chaise"

I would call them and clarify what their description refers to, unless you don't have a preference.

why does it matter? I have looked online for some type of guide about why you want one over the other, left arm facing or right arm facing, and really couldn't find much

A lot of times when people have a preference, it's because they want it to fit in the room a certain way. Perhaps you want the lounge part to be near a window, or to point at the TV, or maybe the room is a funny shape and if you end up with the "wrong" configuration the only way the sofa will fit means that you'd have to leap over the back of the sofa to get to it. For a lot of people it does matter, in a way that is so obvious a guide would be silly -- but if it doesn't matter to you, there is no need to figure out what the confusing way they have described the facing refers to.
posted by yohko at 5:37 PM on February 28, 2017

I will say, I bought an L-shaped couch where you had to chose either one configuration or the other, and I regretted it. (Actually it was technically possible to reverse it, but you had to disassemble the whole thing and purchase an entirely new cover.) It drove me absolutely nuts, because it vastly limited the possibilities for rearranging my living room, and when after five months I realized that the couch would really work better over THERE, I wasn't able to move it, because it would have totally blocked a door. I finally broke down and bought the new cover for like $300 and disassembled and reassembled my whole couch, and I like it much better now... but if I ever move, I might have to do the whole crappy process again.

If I ever buy another L-shaped couch, no way in hell will it not be a fully reversible sectional (like, with actual sections - it's annoying to me that L-shaped couches which don't come apart are called "sectionals" because you can't actually separate them into sections.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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