CLEAN, MODERN FURNITURE IN A sleek white "envelope" of a room is what you see when you look quickly at these pictures. But look closely: You've probably never seen furniture quite like this before.

The room is, in fact, a fantasy, set in the majestically proportioned foyer of the White-Meyer House, a mansion recently bought by Meridian House International to convert for use as a conference and cultural center. It's a scholarly fantasy, to be sure, dreamed up by a pair of obsessed furniture collectors, Washington psychotherapist Maria del Carmen Puig-Casauranc and Nicholas H. Brown, a New York consultant on 20th-century American design. Their idea was to fill a space with a "survey" of 20th-century furniture made by designers using materials in innovative ways. The results were startlingly fresh.

As a partner in Helburn & Hoyt, dealers in mostly American 20th-century decorative arts, Brown has a natural interest in making modern furniture look fresh after 60 years of knocked-off Breuer chairs. But Puig-Casauranc finds that the objects play a role in her practice as well.

The therapist, who specializes in personality reconstruction, finds that her clients relate to the unusual chairs and lamps -- Cherner plywood armchairs, Russel Wright upholstered chairs and Nessen "T" lamps -- with which she has furnished her Connecticut Avenue office. The objects "can initially appear odd," she says, "but they're a 'whole' and, ultimately, attractive. They make my clients recognize what is different about people, appreciate it and honor it."