Whether you're a renter who doesn't plan to stay in one place for very long or you have a growing family, a modular sofa is a smart investment. Unlike traditional sofas that consist of one large piece, modular sofas are made up of smaller sections that can be attached and taken apart with ease. Although modular sofas first became popular in the 1960s, their versatility and convenience have propelled them to fresh popularity.
"A modular sofa is great for someone who has a larger space and may want to change up the configuration or play with the placement of ottomans," says Alessandra Wood, VP of Style at Modsy. From a purely practical perspective, it's a good option for larger families or those who love to entertain, as you can easily move pieces around to optimize your space for the number of people using it.
A modular sofa is great for someone who has a larger space and may want to change up the configuration or play with the placement of ottomans.
One the other hand, a modular sofa is also simply a fantastic statement piece, even if you don't plan to take it apart. It's capable of turning a smaller space into a cozy yet stylish haven, and can be expanded to make a larger room feel more inviting and comfortable.
What is a modular sofa?
A modular sofa comes in pieces, with each seat able to attach and detach for customizable sizing. The modular sofa was invented by American furniture designer Harvey Probber in the 1940s, but the style really took off in the 1960s. One of the most recognizable modular sofas is the Camaleonda by Mario Bellini, a cloud-like sofa that was designed in the early 1970s and was only produced for a few years.
Its bulbous shape and modular design made it especially appealing in the wake of the "blobject" trend, and it was reissued by B&B Italia in 2020. Even if you're not familiar with the name, you've probably seen the Camaleonda on Instagram—Chrissy Teigen, Athena Calderone, Julie Fagerholt, and Aimee Song are just a few of the celebrities and taste makers who have the iconic sofa in their home.
Another midecentury modular sofa you might recognize is Michel Ducaroy's Togo sofa, which has also experienced a resurgence in popularity in the past few years. Although both of these sofas have distinctive styles, they share a modular design, allowing them to be customized to rooms of all sizes. The Togo sofa in particular can be easily utilized as a large sofa or pieced apart as separate chairs depending on your preference and how you want to use your space.
Styling a modular sofa
Just like a regular sofa, how you style your modular sofa depends on the size and shape of the piece. Modular sofas that have that large, overstuffed look with a lower profile need very little styling, as they tend to shine all on their own—and already have that cozy appeal. More streamlined silhouettes can benefit from throw pillows and blankets to soften the sharp lines.
"You don’t have to place the sofa against a wall—while this can work, you should also play with floating the modular sofa in the middle of the room," says Wood. "This can really highlight the piece as the star of the space and let you orient it towards multiple focal points."
The beauty of modular sofas is that you really can do whatever you want. There are no hard and fast rules to follow.
Many modular sofas can easily be made into sectionals, or can be purchased with an ottoman piece that can be used as an ottoman-coffee table hybrid. This configuration is best for larger spaces, although you definitely can use it for smaller rooms as well—you might just need to do a two-piece setup to save space.
The beauty of modular sofas is that you really can do whatever you want. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, leaving you with plenty of freedom to design your space exactly how you want it.
Modular sofas today
As eye-catching as the sofas of the past are, they aren't the only modular sofas on the market. Contemporary modular designs are everywhere, and they cost much less than their midcentury counterparts. Burrow, a direct-to-consumer furniture brand that launched in 2017, designed their original Nomad sofa to be modular. According to Stephen Kuhl, co-founder and CEO of Burrow, they specifically set out to create a sofa that could move from home to home.
"The unique modular design provides the flexibility to regularly expand the size or reconfigure the shape of [the] sofa to fit [customers'] ever-changing lifestyle needs and living spaces," he says.
The other benefit to buying a modular sofa? Smoother delivery. Unlike traditional sofas that are delivered in one piece, modular sofas are delivered in parts, making it easier to haul up and down stairs. "This removes the hassle of bulk delivery, and it’s ideal for apartment and city-dwellers, who might need to carry boxes upstairs or in tight hallways," says Kuhl.
Although Burrow was one of the first brands to focus entirely on modular seating, it isn't the only one. Allform was founded in 2020 and offers modular sofas with a 100-day trial period, while Floyd sells a variety of furniture options that can be easily taken apart and added to. IKEA's customizable SÖDERHAMN series is another popular option that costs much less than others on the market, and Crate & Barrel's Plush 6-Piece Sectional comes personally recommended by Wood.
There's no doubt that modular sofas are a convenient choice for homeowners and renters alike, and all the signs point to the staying power of this trend. Kuhl sees modular designs evolving beyond sofas, saying that the "desire for flexibility and customization will only grow overtime as brands debut new, innovative products for every room of the home." Modular sofas may have been around for decades, but it looks like the style is only just getting started.