The Cool Hunter pop-up stores
Bill Tikos, also known as The Cool Hunter, in his Sydney apartment. Photo: James Brickwood
Reclining in his Darlinghurst pad in a simple outfit with orange thongs, Bill Tikos hardly seems the global style guru type.
The Sydney design blogger, better known as the Cool Hunter, spends his days scouring the web for the ultimate in consumer cool. His burgeoning fan base - top designers and marketers among them - hang on his verdicts on everything from toothbrushes to villa designs.
Yet at home, no far-out furniture is on display and there's no ''horse with a lamp on its head'' in sight. Instead, the space is filled with soft fabrics, grey surfaces and simple ornaments. Like any normal domestic scene, a stack of washing-up dries on the kitchen counter.
The Cool Hunter ... Bill Tikos in his Darlinghurst unit. Photo: James Brickwood
''There's some really stupid design out there with designers doing really crazy things at stupid prices,'' he says. ''I'm just about nice things.''
With a tap on his smartphone or a click on his keyboard, however, Tikos has access to a virtual following around the world.
And they're not just a few. The Cool Hunter claims more than 2 million monthly website visits, 200,000-odd newsletter subscribers and 260,000 Twitter followers. Until two months ago, he also had nearly 800,000 Facebook fans, but the social media site shut his page down after a copyright stoush over the use of uncredited content. Tikos has unsuccessfully lobbied against the decision.
He still credits social media - and a dose of good timing - with much of his success.
The former band manager and literary agent set up his blog eight years ago as an offshoot of a magazine column. Within months, thousands were poring over his signature manicured, masculine aesthetic, and now the one-time Melbourne boy spends half the year in New York and half in Sydney, sourcing the best homewares, architecture and fashion.
''I was just earlier [than other bloggers],'' he says. ''I started at an earlier time and I think mine, aesthetically, just looks better. It pops out, with nice colours and graphics, and I have a lot of exclusive content you won't find on other sites. It's fresh and original.''
Having never finished school and lacking any design or architectural qualifications, however, Tikos says much of his journey has been accidental. But what he lacks in formal expertise, he makes up for in entrepreneurial energy and instinct.
His first retail venture - a series of pop-up stores named The Cool House - arrives at Bondi Beach next week before heading to London and New York.
The event, which launched in Melbourne last month, includes luxury products from Australian and overseas designers, plus the first product from his new Playso brand, a bird-shaped letterbox named Koo Koo.
Next year, Tikos plans to open an online store at thecoolhunter.net and eventually sell hotel accommodation, too, as well as bring to life other offline projects, such as assembling a prefabricated, architect-designed house on the steps of the Sydney Opera House. He also runs a creative agency named Access.
Despite such commercial savvy and confidence, Tikos has trouble pinning down his concept of cool. ''It's my aesthetic,'' he says. ''I look at something and think 'Wow'. I don't think twice about it. I don't think, 'Is it cool or is it not?' or 'Is this great or not?' I just instinctively know this is awesome; either I want it or I want to buy it.''
Ultimately, he shies away from obvious labels. ''I hate the term 'trendsetter' or 'trend spotter','' he says. ''It's just more what inspires me and if I think, 'That looks great,' I'll write about it.''
The Cool House, Pacific Lighthouse, Swiss-Grand Resort & Spa, Bondi Beach, December 7-16.